News & Lifestyle | 29 May 2019
Three great Aussie comeback stories that’s sure to inspire
Australians are known for many things. Their love for family, larikinism, and the desire to crank up an open-flame barbie at the height of summer.
Yes, there are a lot of great things synonymous with being Australian, but perhaps the greatest thing is that undying resilience in the face of extreme hardship. That ability to fight on, no matter the odds and regardless of the mistakes of the past or adversity ahead.
These three great Australians sum up that famous Aussie resilience and their stories are sure to inspire you to reach greater heights.
It’s one of the most heartbreaking stories in recent times. A 24-year-old, fitness enthusiast/engineering student by the name of Turia Pitt, was competing in a gruelling 100km outback ultra-marathon in the Kimberley region of Western Australia when tragedy struck. The hot conditions combined with the dry surroundings sparked a grass fire as she passed through a narrow gorge which saw her become trapped. Pitt sustained 65 per cent burns to her body and was airlifted to Darwin Hospital where she fought for life as a number of severe infections set in.
Pitt spent the next six months undergoing more than 200 operations, had to learn basic skills such as moving her limbs again and for the next two years was forced to live in a full compression suit and face mask. Despite the odds stacked against her and her extreme physical limitations, Pitt, who had identified so many dreams and goals to achieve in life just prior to the accident, wasn’t going to let her injuries define the rest of her life.
Since her accident, Pitt has managed to raise over $1 million for non-for-profit charity Interplast Australia & New Zealand, she successfully completed not one but two Ironman events and in 2017 she welcomed her child into the world – a son named Hakavai.
“A cataclysmic event happened to me and there was nothing that I could do to change it, so I focused on the steps I could take to create a better future for myself,” Turia Pitt said.
As far as life turnarounds go, Alex Leapai’s is certainly one of the more remarkable.
The boxing champ from Logan, Queensland known as the ‘Lionheart’ was always a uniquely talented athlete but his lack of focus and inability to control his emotions saw his life spiral out of control. In his late teens, Leapai’s promising rugby league career went up in smoke when he physically assaulted a referee and was consequently banned for life. A few years later Leapai was hooked on drugs and alcohol and in 2005 he was sentence to six months in prison for his role in a vicious fight with bouncers outside a Brisbane nightspot.
Leapai seemed destined to either overdose or live a fulltime life behind bars if not for two pivotal moments which occurred during his incarceration – hearing his parents call him a ‘disappointment’ and wasting the sacrifices they had made for him and the peace and direction he found in turning to Christianity.
Upon his release, Leapai vowed never to return to prison and spend another day wasting his talents – and so he harnessed all his efforts into making it as a professional boxer. Rather than drawing on rage and aggression, Leapai built up his skills and familiarised himself with the intricacies of the sport which soon led him to capturing the WBO Asia Pacific, IBF Australasian and OPBF heavyweight title. And in 2014, the Queenslander became the first Australian to contest the world heavyweight title in 106 years when he took on undisputed champion, Wladimir Klitschko.
Now a mentor to troubled youth, Leapai is hoping he’s story will inspire the next generation.
She will forever have a place in Australian sport folklore for becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, but not many people know the emotional anguish and physical punishment Michelle Payne endured for years to get to that moment.
From a young age, the talented athlete always had one dream and that was to be one a successful professional jockey – despite the heavy male presence in the sport. This undying will and determination was certainly tested in 2004 when the 18-year-old fell in practice and sustained a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. The injuries were so severe she had to relearn basic motor functions and her family implored her to give up racing in order to enjoy a healthy and high-quality life. But Payne took the injury in her stride and despite the advice of her family, was determined to achieve her dreams.
The Victorian continued to gather experience and build up a strong reputation as an up and coming jockey when tragedy struck again in 2012. Payne was thrown from her horse shortly after the start of a race meeting in Donald and suffered nine fractured vertebrae and broken ribs. It was at that point that Payne admitted for the first time in her life she seriously considered giving up on racing. “I had two falls in a year and all up fractured nine vertebrae and I came home and said to me dad, I think that’s me done,” Payne admitted to Channel Seven.
Keen to give her racing career one more real crack, Payne returned and racked up a supremely impressive record that led her to securing the ride on 100 to 1 shot Prince of Penzance in the 2015 Melbourne Cup, and the rest as they say, is history.