Paralympian Greg Hibberd would give anything to go back to Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea to complete the Kokoda Trail just one more time.
He would even give back his 2006 World Championships shot put bronze medal.
Completing the 96-kilometre hike across rugged and isolated terrain four years ago was a life-changing experience for Greg. Despite his aching body and his mind begging him to stop, he started taking his first steps to a new way of life.
“The Kokoda trip was the best thing I have done in my life,” Greg said. “I would give every single medal and trophy just to do it again. It forced me to look at my life in a different way.
“Everyone breaks along the trail, and it is just a matter of when. My ‘break day’ was day three and I didn’t like the person who came out on the trail.”
The trek compelled Greg to assess his life and see where he was pursuing happiness.
“The trail was the only place that I have seen true happiness,” Greg said. “Kids, stark naked, running around chasing a chicken, which would later be their dinner. These people have nothing and live a really simple life.
“In my generation, we try to find happiness in materialistic things. I always wanted a new TV, a new phone, a new iPad. I thought I was rich because I had all of these things in my life but really, I was poor.”
In the years following the trek, Greg cut technology out of his life, let go of toxic friends and started playing sport again. Now he is married, has become a father, and plays football six times a week.
Being privately coached through the Paul Jones Goalkeeping Academy, Greg finds football one of his most difficult but rewarding challenges.
“As a goalkeeper, I have to be fit, flexible and be willing to take a hit,” he said. “Due to my Cerebral Palsy, my hip flexors are tight, my hamstrings are tight, and my glutes are tight so flexibility is pretty much non-existent.
“The reason why I train as much as I do is that if I don’t train my body over and over again, I will forget that skill. Even if it is tying my shoelaces or learning to dive, I could forget due to my CP.”
He is now encouraging others with CP to take the leap of faith and play football.
“A lot of people with disabilities are afraid to come to play football,” Greg said. “They say to me ‘what if I fall over?’. My honest response to them is ‘do you think you are different?’.
“We all fall over. We just have to get back up.”
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