Targeting personal bests at Warrior Games

It was a former Invictus Australia team member that first inspired Wodonga’s Brett Lewis to get off the couch and consider adaptive sports for rehabilitation and recovery.

CAPTIONWarrior Games 2024 competitor Brett Lewis at the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, ACT. Story by Flying Officer Tina Langridge. Photos by Flight Sergeant Ricky Fuller.

Four years after his introduction to wheelchair basketball in Canberra, the former Air Force member has stepped onto the world sporting stage to participate in the 2024 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Florida.

Hosted by the US military, the event brings together hundreds of wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women – both current and former serving – to test their mettle in a range of adaptive sports.

When seeing a list of Mr Lewis’ injuries, it is not surprising to learn he was once told he would never be able to lift more than 30kg in weight. These included a spinal injury that resulted in a triple spinal fusion, artificial disc, caged discs and removal of three spinous processes; injuries to his left knee and shoulders that have required multiple surgeries; the removal of much of his left bicep; and a serious golden staph infection.

However, with the support of wheelchair basketball coach and former Invictus Games competitor Dennis Ramsay, and local gym owner Zak Rogers, who convinced Mr Lewis of the need to work towards a goal, he has proven everyone wrong.

“It used to be all about the weights,” said Mr Lewis, who served as a cook, administration clerk and operations officer throughout his 17-year Defence career.

“I spent three months on a broomstick because that’s all I was allowed to lift. Now I’m competing in powerlifting and my personal best is 150 kilograms.”

CAPTIONBrett Lewis checks in with his partner Tracey Lewis at Sydney international airport prior to departure for Orlando, Florida in the United States of America.

Surprisingly though, powerlifting is not Mr Lewis’ preferred sport. Although he will also contest wheelchair basketball and shooting events at the Warrior Games, it is the indoor rowing that floats his boat, so to speak.

So much so, that he has almost finished an indoor riggers course that will enable him to coach the sport.

“I hated indoor rowing with a passion and then I thought I’d give it a go at the training camp … I’m absolutely in love with it now and even have a rower in the front lounge room,” Mr Lewis said.

“I’m right into the concept now and watching my metres and strokes and pace rate compared to my strokes. I’ve got an AI online that I put videos into to assess my technique and it’s absolutely fascinating to me.

“I think I’m nearly up to 120 kilometres on the rower already.”

So what was Mr Lewis enjoying the most about the event?

Aside from the camaraderie and friendship that comes from being back in a team environment, he is simply hoping to beat his personal bests while his wife Tracey, sister Nadia and brother-in-law Scott watch from the wings, and other family members, including sons, Kyle, Dylan and Tyler, watch from home.

After that, the next stage of goal-setting begins in earnest.

“Once I hit that next step, I’ve always got to have that next goal to aim for. I’m that kind of guy,” Mr Lewis said.

“One of my goals is to be able to lift double my body weight, so that’s one of my targets after the games.

“I’m also looking at entering the rowing at the Pacific Masters on the Gold Coast in November.”

The Warrior Games run through until June 30.


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