Former professional swimmer Carlo Novak planned to blitz the pool at this year’s Warrior Games, but the Australian Army veteran set aside those plans to embark on a new challenge.
With a desire to put his athletic skills to the test, Novak agreed to reduce his pool program and broaden his training to include the eight sports that make up the Ultimate Warrior Challenge – they include track (100 metre sprint), field, shooting (air rifle prone), powerlifting, cycling (time trial), archery, swimming (50 metre freestyle) and indoor rowing (1 minute row). Competing in their respective functional classifications, contenders earn points based on their individual results and they may only compete in the abovementioned events.
“I had to agree to scale back my swimming program and that was a tough decision in the beginning… I’ve always been known as the swimmer,” Novak said.
“But since I made the decision, I wake up every day and I can’t wait to start training.”
He might be at home in the pool, but Novak is a fish out of water when it comes to cycling.
He’s pedalling on thanks to the support from friends.
“I’ve reached out to some mates in the veteran community in Hobart. They’re keen to get me into the spandex for starters. I threw a pair of cleats on and I thought, ‘this is great.’”
“We’re all just trying to help one another,” he said.
The former Australian Army corporal and St John Ambulance NT paramedic resumed swimming to support his ‘post traumatic growth journey’.
“I talk about it now and it’s getting easier. I try to speak up for my own benefit and hopefully, I empower others, they understand, it’s ok, you can talk.
“We’re all at different places on the recovery curve – recovery isn’t a straight line – there are massive ups and downs.
“It’s a journey – you can’t rush from point a to point b – there’s a lot of in-between,” he said.
Novak is one of 40 current and ex-serving Australian defence personnel who attended a series of camps in the lead-up to Warrior Games 2019. Out of the camps, 24 competitors were selected to represent Australia at the Games, which are to be held in Tampa (USA) from 21-30 June.
The camps have been crucial to Novak’s rehabilitation but it’s what happened outside of the pool and off the track that he’s found most empowering.
“Being around the other athletes that are part of this program and having conversations with them brought back such amazing memories,” Novak said.
“Everyone is there for the same reason – rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration. No one is rolling over or calling it quits.
“I’ve never smiled so much. You’re meeting such beautiful people who are trying to empower you and everyone is giving and taking from one another in such a positive way. Especially with competitors who have been part of the Warrior or Invictus Games programs – they’re paying it forward. I want to do that now,” he said.
The athlete in him wants to do well but Novak is most looking forward to the team experience.
“I made a decision that if I made the team, I wanted to enjoy the training, not put self-imposed pressure on myself.”
“I’m here to have a good time and have a good experience with my teammates,” he said.
Photo Credit: Jayson Tufrey