Power-packed experience ahead

Competing in the 2024 Warrior Games in Florida means a lot to Airlie Beach resident Diane Jackson.

CAPTIONWarrior Games 2024 competitor Diane Jackson at the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, ACT. Story by Flying Officer Belinda Barker. Photo by Flight Sergeant Ricky Fuller. 

She’s representing Australia in the US at the adaptive sporting competition, celebrating the exceptional physical skills and mental toughness of wounded, injured and ill service members from the US and Australian military.

Living with hereditary spastic paraplegia, an extremely rare condition causing slow progressive neuromuscular degeneration in the lower limbs, the Air Force veteran has been looking into applying for the Warrior Games for a long time.

“I’ve been looking at it for years on websites and YouTube and looking at the other athletes and thinking that would be something that would be really good to be a part of, so I applied and kept my fingers crossed the whole time,” Mrs Jackson said.

To be named in the 30-member team representing Australia among about 200 current and former-serving American military members was a huge point in the 58-year-old’s rehabilitation journey.

Hoping sport and physical fitness will help delay progression of her illness, the Warrior Games holds a number of drawcards for the resilient ex-logistics officer who has been out of the Defence Force for about seven years.

“I’m looking forward to competing, being in a team with other people who are dealing with mental and physical health issues, and meeting competitors from another nation,” Mrs Jackson said.

“All the camaraderie and spirit that come from it is exciting too – teamwork and everyone cheering each other on.

“It’s a typical military environment where everyone backs each other up and looks after each other.”

Mrs Jackson knows that feeling of support firsthand, both from her Aussie teammates as well as the Airlie Beach community.

Husband of 26 years, Russell, has been her champion, helping Mrs Jackson train and build improvised training devices so she can practise at home.

Local gym, Base 51 Functional Fitness, has sponsored the journey, assisting in the strength training capacity, while the local school has lent her shotput and discus to train with.

The community can watch Mrs Jackson’s games campaign unfold as she takes on athletics, cycling, indoor rowing and powerlifting.

While powerlifting is her passion, having found it a few years ago as part of her rehabilitation, a relatively new adaptive sport for her is handcycling, which gives her a freedom she hasn’t felt for years due to the degeneration in her lower limbs.

“I fell in love with it the first time I jumped in, in March,” Mrs Jackson said.

“You can get in it, control it and go fast, which you sort of can’t do by any other means.

“I used to ride bikes and I haven’t been able to for seven or eight years, so it was great to get back in it and go riding around town.”

Mrs Jackson said she was eyeing further competitive powerlifting and handcycling opportunities when she returns from the games.

CAPTION: Team Australia’s Diane Jackson competes in the women’s recumbent cycling at the Warrior Games. Photo by Flight Sergeant Christopher Dickson.


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