Previously known as Veteran Sport Australia

Case study

Nicole Bradley
Army Veteran, Invictus Games Co-Captain 2018 


overview

The Brisbane mum, 45, joined the Army in 1993 as a logistics officer. Her father had served in Vietnam and her great-grandfather earned a medal for bravery in the First World War. “The whole ANZAC legend was an important part of my growing up,” she says. “I guess the idea of [serving] sat really nice with me off the post.” 

challenge

But during her early years training at the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College, Duntroon, she picked up a debilitating foot condition. 

“I would do a five-kilometre road march with the recruits and find it would take me maybe three days to recover, because the strain on my muscles was so great,” she says. “A few people were getting surgery for their compartments at that time, but the condition was still fairly new and wasn’t really accepted, people would think you were putting it on.” 

While surgery, completed in 1999, “relieved the swelling and pressure on my shins”, Bradley suffered a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) while pregnant in 2007 and a recurrence a year later, and eventually discharged from the defence force in 2015 after 22 years’ service. Nicole struggled to settle into her new life and admits her confidence “had taken a real knock”. 

Journey

However, through sport the former logistics officer has been able to turn the corner. A lifelong hockey player, she pivoted to powerlifting at the suggestion of her rehabilitation coach and found it relieved the symptoms of her DVT. At the 2017 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, she competed in powerlifting for the first time and won a gold medal. “I’d never won a gold medal in anything in my life, it was amazing,” she says.  

She wants to use her experience to help others as they come to terms with their conditions. 

“When I left the army I didn’t know what work I was going to do, how I could define myself or what skills I could use,”
said Bradley. “Having the amazing honour of being named a team captain (in 2018) has shown me that I’m really valued, that I’m a real person and people have faith in me.”  

Impact

I had little to do with the veteran’s community before the Invictus Games. I hadn’t been engaged. But this year (2018) I marched on Anzac Day for the first time. It was about feeling like I had a place. 

“Often female veterans, particularly, don’t feel as accepted, especially by older veterans, because we’re not seen as the stereotype. It can be really hard and I think it’s part of why I lost myself in the organisation for a long time and found it hard when I left.” 

Sport has had a profound impact on Nicole’s journey of healing, self-discovery, acceptance and wellbeing, and she encourage all veterans to reach out and find a local sporting community that can become their tribe.  

“When I left the army I didn’t know what work I was going to do, how I could define myself or what skills I could use,” said Bradley. “Having the amazing honour of being named a team captain (in 2018) has shown me that I’m really valued, that I’m a real person and people have faith in me.”  

Nicole Bradley

Army Veteran, Invictus Games Co-Captain 2018


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