For Australian Wheelchair Rugby star and NDIS participant Chris Bond, a quest for success sparked from the ashes of Tokyo means retirement wasn’t on the cards.
A three-time Paralympian, Chris helped deliver Australia two Paralympic gold medals (2012, 2016), before injury and bad luck left the team off the podium in Tokyo following a bronze medal play-off loss to the host nation.
The 35-year-old parent of one said a burning ambition to rectify unfinished business meant he wouldn’t be heading off the court just yet.
“Tokyo left a bad taste, and it was also the first time we’d even lost a game at Paralympics-level,” Chris said. “We fought pretty hard, but when we lost our main line up when one of our guys (Michael Ozanne) got sick, the writing was on the wall.
“So, I’m committed to (competing) at the World Championships in Denmark (2022), and Paris (2024) is a possibility… But my daughter Victoria is 18-months-old now and I work full-time and have voluntary roles.
“There’s going to come a time when that all takes a toll on the level you need to be at, but right now, I’m still hungry.”
It’s that competitive spirit and determination which has driven the Sunshine Coast-based star to such lofty heights since his life changed forever at 19.
Growing up in Canberra as a promising rugby league player, acute promyelocytic leukaemia left Chris without his left hand, right fingers, and legs below the knees through a bacterial infection.
“From playing league, I loved team sports, and having a twin brother, I loved the rough and tumble stuff in the backyard and the full-contact nature of it,” Chris said.
“So, after I got sick, I tried swimming, and hated it... but a wheelchair rugby coach asked me to come along and get on the court, and the rest is history.”
Making his debut for Australia in 2011, Chris has excelled on court, with the contact nature of wheelchair rugby allowing him and his brethren to show the world “we can”.
“People think that if you have a disability you can’t do anything, and you’re soft and weak, but it’s metal-on-metal colliding at full-pace,” Chris said. “Put an able-bodied person on the court with us, and we’d kick their arse.”
Chris has used his plan to fund his off-court wheelchair, as well as the assistive technology (AT) to thrive in his sporting and home lives.
Training up to 10-15 hours a week amid gym sessions, working as a fundraising manager with the Australian Sports Foundation, and being a committed father, Chris said it wouldn’t all be possible without the NDIS.
“The NDIS has definitely been a massive help; especially with my big AT items such as my below knee prosthetics like my active legs and every day legs,” Chris said.
“I’m pretty independent, but help around the home when I’m training and working full-time makes things easier, and that means a lot.”
With Victoria growing up, Chris said knowing the Scheme is in place provides peace of mind for the future.
“For myself, I need this equipment to live an independent life, and the NDIS takes that burden off me mentally and physically,” he said.
“People with disability are some of the best people to understand how lucky we are in Australia… You see Paralympians from other countries getting around literally using tree branches for crutches, so it gives you a great perspective of how lucky we are.
“Now, as a father, if my children have a disability, I’m at peace knowing that in Australia, they’ll be looked after.”