He’s been blown up twice, hit by a car and sustained multiple injuries after jumping out of a plane.

CAPTIONNigel Coutts celebrates wining silver in the men’s road race during the cycling events at the 2024 Warrior Games. Story Flying Officer Belinda Barker. Photos by Flight Sergeant Ricky Fuller.

But former SAS soldier Nigel Coutts said his head-to-toe injuries haven’t broken his spirit, although they have broken his body.

With a 25-year service history in the Army that reads like an adventure novel, the 48-year-old Perth resident is now taking part in his next chapter: representing Australia at the US Department of Defense’s Warrior Games in Florida.

In keeping with Mr Coutts’ ‘go big or go home’ spirit, he’s taking on the Ultimate Champion title at the 14th annual adaptive sports games.

To be crowned the Ultimate Champion, participants compete in their respective classifications in eight individual sporting events. The Ultimate Champion is the competitor who earns the most points in the eight events.

It makes sense that a sporty kid from Palmerston would grow up with that fighting spirit.

“Growing up in New Zealand, I played rugby union, rugby league, basketball and then surfing, snowboarding and skiing,” Mr Coutts said.

“I wouldn’t say I’m an athlete but I just love all sports.

“It gets you off the couch and keeps the brain ticking along.”

CAPTIONNigel Coutts competes in the men’s road race during the cycling events at the Warrior Games. 

That mind continues to tick despite all it has been through – brain injuries as well as physical injuries including broken ribs, pelvis, spine and legs, and steel implants and pins throughout his body.

Mr Coutts was the perfect candidate for the games, which highlight the exceptional physical skills and mental toughness of wounded, injured and ill serving and former-serving members from US military, along with competitors from Australia.

He also happens to be a third-generation Defence Force member, behind his Vietnam veteran father and World War 2 spitfire-flying grandfather.

“They said I’ve got nine lives, like a cat,” Mr Coutts said.

“I’ve used five of them up, two of them over in Afghanistan.

“I’ve been blown up twice, still alive to tell the story. And then the last accident was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back – a heavy landing while we were parachuting up in Queensland.”

That netted Mr Coutts a traumatic brain injury, cranial facial fractures, spinal cord injuries, broken pelvis and leg, as just a start. Doctors told him he was risking paraplegia if he even took a tumble down as set of stairs.

That was the clincher for Mr Coutts, forcing him to take some time to allow his body to recover and rehabilitate. A journey he continues on today with support from his wife and teenage daughters.

These days, outside of training, Mr Coutts spends his time giving back to the community at Connected By, a safe space in Perth where participants – including veterans and first responders – can build surfboards, bodyboards or paddleboards.

Many of them have their own harrowing stories to tell – or to keep to themselves.

“It’s not what knocks you down, it’s if you can get back up again, that’s how I see it,” Mr Coutts said.


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