On the road to recovery

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Cooper Blackwood fractured and dislocated his C5 C6 vertebrae in a diving accident while holidaying with friends in Bali in January 2020.

CAPTIONInvictus Games 2023 Team Australia competitor Able Seaman Cooper Blackwood at the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation, Narrabeen NSW. Story by Tina Langridge. Photo by Flight Sergeant Ricky Fuller.

The injury left him paralysed from the chest down, and he required extensive rehabilitation to re-learn essential day-to-day living tasks.

Now, just under four years later, Able Seaman Blackwood, is walking, can somewhat run, and is representing his country in three sports at Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 – swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby – demonstrating how far he has come.

As one would expect of someone with a strong sporting background – touch football, touch rugby league, soccer, futsal, golf and swimming in particular – it was inevitable that sport would play a significant role in his recovery.

“I was a competitive swimmer until I was 18, so getting back into the pool and having a goal to work towards was a big motivator,” Able Seaman Blackwood said.

“I heard the call for more serving members to place an expression of interest in joining the Games.

“I hadn’t been involved in any team sports post my accident but I was aware that the adaptive sports program helps a lot of people so I put in my application a few weeks before the cut-off date.

“I’m happy to be here and proud to be wearing the Australian kit.”

Although he still has some medical issues, Able Seaman Blackwood, is currently posted to HMAS Kuttabul, is relishing the opportunity to compete against other current and former serving service members.

“To me, the medals are a bonus. I just want to make new friends, support my team mates, compete the best I can and achieve my goals,” he said.

The Invictus Games are an international sporting event for wounded, injured and ill serving and former-serving military personnel. The games use the power of sport to support recovery, rehabilitation and generate wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.

About 500 competitors from 21 nations, along with about 1000 family members and friends will make the trek to Düsseldorf this September.


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