Every long distance triathlete’s dream is to compete in the iconic Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and for ex-serviceman Matt Brumby, that dream came true. And against all odds, he won!
Matt joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1994 at the age of 16. In 2000, while undertaking selection to be a Navy clearance diver he collapsed on the beach. Soon after, Matty was diagnosed with a syrinx, a fluid filled cavity in his spinal cord that had paralysed him from just below the chest down.
Undeterred, Matt’s diagnosis opened up new opportunities. He worked on a farm, learned to operate excavators and tractors and even trained to be a pilot. Within a few years he competed in his first triathlon, narrowly missing out on selection for the Paralympics in Rio, before switching to long distance triathlons.
Following a successful Sydney Invictus Games 2018 as co-captain, Matt qualified for the Ironman World Championships, despite there being only four handcycle spots available worldwide. The gruelling format for the Ironman race is a 3.8km swim, 180km handcycle through the city of Kona and out into the lava fields, returning to the city centre on a racing wheelchair for 42.2km.
So began four months of meticulous training around Terranora and Murwillumbah with Invictus Games co-captain and great mate, Peter Rudland. Peter, a Tweed Heads & Coolangatta RSL Sub-Branch member, was badly wounded in a Blackhawk Helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2010.
Matt said that without Twin Towns Services Community Foundation’s generous financial assistance package, he would have struggled to get to the starting line in Hawaii. Twin Towns Services Community Foundation, along with help from Veteran Sports Australia, Legacy WA, a Go Fund me page set up by Peter, made it all possible.
“There was a lot of gear to transport, as well as personal items I needed for the race, and it was beyond my financial capabilities. Personally, for me to be able to compete at the Ironman World Championships was just an amazing chance to test myself and such an amazing experience,” said Matt.
“No athlete wins a world title without help from a fantastic support network. Twin Towns sponsorship has directly attributed to the development of a world class athlete and an Australian that can now call himself a World Champion. It is a credit to Twin Towns and its members for their direct community involvement and continued support of the veteran community.
“Without this support, Matty simply would not have been able to compete on a world stage,” said Peter.