#14 – Shane Bramley found himself again thanks to adapted sports

As a child, Shane Bramley loved sports. So much so, that when he eventually became a sports instructor in the army, it came as no surprise. Yet the Australian did at some point distance himself from sports. His illness, Fibromyalgia, made him so exhausted that he could not only physically cope with it anymore, but he also did not enjoy it anymore. However, years later, he got into sports again, thanks to the Adaptive Sports Program from Veterans Sports Australia. It helped him get his life back on track.

By Edward Swier

Important to move

Bramley (46) realizes daily how important it is to move. The Fibromyalgia causes his joints and muscles to be in constant pain, he is tired out, and his memory and mood are affected. But by getting the right amount of sports activities in, it all becomes more bearable. In the run-up to the Invictus Games, Bramley has to make sure not to overdo it. Too much training has the opposite effect. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy doing it as much. I’m really looking forward to the Invictus Games. As team Australia we are really looking forward to it.”

His first Invictus Games

Two weeks ago, Bramley and his 31 teammates were presented in a grand way in Australia. Bramley is the male team captain of the team, with Sarah Petchell as the female one. It will be the first Invictus Games for Bramley. “Indeed, it will be the first time I will be participating. In 2017 I first told the Australian Defence Force and Veterans Sports Australia that I was interested in the adapted sports program. That was in the run-up to the Invictus Games in my own country. Unfortunately, I was not selected for Sydney. But since the Games in Sydney, I have been training and have participated in the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs and Florida. Those were both incredible experiences.”

“And I have to say that I have even greater expectations for the Invictus Games. I was not there in 2018, but I do know how it went in Sydney. And I am also already hearing great things about The Hague. We always go to the Warrior Games with a small team, now we are 32 participants. All in all, with staff and family and friends, about one hundred Australians will travel to The Hague. I think it’s wonderful that 20 countries will come together there. And that my son, who is now 13, can finally see me participating in a sporting event. I always found it a shame that he had to miss my sporting events so far. That boy is already looking forward to it, he is completely wild about the map of the Invictus Games site at the Zuiderpark.”

Health and condition

Bramley made his way into the Australian Army in 1996. After a few other positions, he eventually became a sports instructor. “I became a Physical Training Instructor at the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps in 2003. I think that my passion for sports has been there from an early age. During my time in the army I did suffer from a number of, often smaller, sports injuries. In 2010 I returned home sick from a broadcast to East Timor. I was in a lot of pain, very tired. It was later determined that I had Fibromyalgia. My fatigue, but also my complaints about knees, ankles, elbows, lower back and, for example, ear complaints are related to that.”

“My current condition? I can handle it now, I have it under control. But you will have to change your mindset. I have to live with it. I initially had difficulty with that. I had to learn to accept that I could no longer do a number of things. Now that I am in the programme, my view has changed enormously. I can now see what I am capable of. And also, what others, with similar or even worse conditions or problems, can do. If you are part of a group, such as the Veterans Sports Australia, it is very supportive. No one judges you, there is no mutual competition. You support each other wherever and whenever possible.”

Invictus Games team Australia

He also feels that sense of comradery within the Australian Invictus team. Bramley and his fellow participants were selected from a group of 180 candidates. “After the first training camp, when the team was not yet chosen, I couldn’t stop talking about it with my wife. I also said at the time that I really didn’t care if I wasn’t selected. How are you supposed to choose someone over another? I saw everyone doing their best. In fact, we should all be able to go. Everyone deserved it.”

Bramley will participate in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and two athletics components from 9 to 16 May in The Hague: discus throwing and shot put. “I train as often as I can. Due to my illness, I am not allowed to overwork my body. If I do too much, I get out of balance. Then I forget details, I miss information and I make mistakes due to a lack of concentration.”

In addition, there is of course always a ‘geographical challenge’ in Australia. “Of course, we cannot often meet with the complete wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball team. Our country is big. If you are not careful, you are in the air for half of the week. Moreover, not everyone is still in the army and can fully commit their time for the preparations. However, we train together as often as possible.”

Adaptive sports

Bramley, in his hometown Townsville, in Queensland, has gotten in contact with Sporting Wheelies, an association where various adaptive sports are practiced. “I regularly play basketball with them. Additionally, I got a brand-new basketball from my wife during the holidays. There is a hoop in our back yard, so I can practice every day.”

In Townsville and the surrounding area, Bramley helps others to also see the fun in exercise. Thanks to the Invictus Games in Sydney there has been a much more positive outlook towards adapted sports throughout Australia. “Everyone got something from it, that makes it easier to talk about it. I seize every opportunity to convince others that it is important for your health and well-being to do something. It is important that you tackle obstacles daily, no matter how small it sometimes is. “It is precisely that message that he propagates in his new position, in which he helps employees of the Ministry of Defence find their next job. “It is enormously valuable work. I personally know how important it is, for example after an injury or illness, to get your life back on track. Due to my physical circumstances I can no longer do everything I could before. But I have learned that by being myself, I can also be of service to others. I also like to share that with others.”

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