'Healing power of sport': countdown to the Invictus Games

'Healing power of sport': countdown to the Invictus Games

Standing at about six-four with broad shoulders, Benjamin Farinazzo is an imposing figure but he hit rock bottom three years ago.

The former infantry parachuter had his bout with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, plus a broken neck and back after a mountain bike accident.

Invictus competitor and former UNSW Canberra alumni, Benjamin Farinazzo.

Invictus competitor and former UNSW Canberra alumni, Benjamin Farinazzo.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

Now, Mr Farinazzo is set to represent Australia at the upcoming Invictus Games, an international sporting event for veterans and active defence personnel.

The former UNSW Canberra alumni will be representing Australia in indoor rowing and powerlifting.


"Invictus is just a wonderful opportunity for wounded, injured and ill current and former serving defence personnel to connect with each other around the healing power of support," Mr Farinazzo said.

Speaking at an event at the Australian War Memorial to mark 100 days before the games, Mr Farinazzo said he was thrilled to join his brothers and sisters in arms again.

The event was opened by the memorial's director Brendan Nelson and former-Olympic cyclist Anna Meares, with guests including former-Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe.

Mr Farinazzo said he was in East Timor in the late '90s but things had begun to fester in his mind soon after he came back.

"Tried to beat it and it smashed me pretty hard," he said.

He has been in and out of hospital four to five times over the past two decades, including a year-long stint in a mental hospital.

Rock bottom came when Mr Farinazzo broke his spine in a mountain bike accident.

"I broke my neck and back in about five places and couldn't move, that was three years ago," Mr Farinazzo said.

"My family have been key to my rehabilitation. My wife and my children have faced a very challenging period with my PTSD and my broken neck.

"Sport gave me an opportunity, in particular rowing, to get back on top of my physical and mental health and it was through that opportunity of rowing that I was connected with Invictus Games."

As a young man, the former parachuter said he used to love going hard but has since learned to be gentle on himself.

"Despite the psychological and physical wounds that I've sustained I am still a confident, happy person with a tremendous love for my family."

Mr Farinazzo said it was important for people with mental health issues to open their hearts.

"Practice gratitude and love. You are worth it," Mr Farinazzo said.

The Invictius Games 2018 begin on October 20 in Sydney.

Finbar O'Mallon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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