World-class water-skier Wade Bennett this month returns to the water for the first time in a decade, a mighty feat for the man whose stellar career was brought to a catastrophic halt with a 180-kmph accident.
In 1995, Bennett was ranked as one of the country’s top ski racers. He held four national titles, 27 state titles, had twice taken home the Skier of the Year trophy and had represented his country.
That was until an accident at the Mildura 100. Crashing at such an impossibly fast speed, Bennett suffered extensive injuries, including smashed bones, nerve damage and major damage to his internal organs.
After 17 days in a coma, four and a half months in traction, years of intensive physical therapy and a total of 52 separate operations over the years, Bennett took up paralympic track running — the sport he represented Australia in at the 2000 Sydney Gay Games.
Bennett received further recognition for his sportsmanship by being asked to be an Olympic torch-bearer, despite being unable to compete alongside former teammates.
“It was incredible,” he recalled. “I met everyone from John Howard down, and even got him to scull a beer — that was pretty funny. We were about to have a photo taken, and he was standing there with a beer. I’ve turned around, and without even thinking said, ‘Well, scull the thing’. ”
In 1998 he returned to water-skiing, but then backed away.
“I haven’t really raced since. I’ve not done it because everyone’s been guilting me about putting them through the stress of it — which I completely understand — but I’m sick of waiting for approval from anyone any more. I just want to have a go again,” he told Sydney Star Observer.
On November 21 and 22, Bennett returns to the water for the Bridge to Bridge, a prestigious 112km race from Brooklyn to Windsor which involves flying down the Hawkesbury at speeds over 100kmph.
“I’ve only been concentrating on this for six weeks. With my rehab I’ve gotten up to running 6kms in the national park in Noosa, so it’s been a quick transition straight over into the gym for training.
“I’ve got a great energy around me now, I needed to have that sort of energy around me again. I’ve been stuck in this unit for two years basically, half of it on my back. So it’s just nice to have a sport again, it’s cool.”
info: For more on the Bridge to Bridge race, visit www.waterskinsw.com.au For more on Wade Bennett, visit badladaustralia.wordpress.com/