Golden girl takes on the Warrior Games

Department of Defence

From being the unofficial golden girl of last year’s Invictus Games in Germany to now competing in five sports at this year’s Warrior Games in the US, Erin Brigden is a competitive powerhouse.

The former Shellharbour girl and current Brisbanian picked up a slew of personal bests in Dusseldorf last year and spends hours each day rebuilding her body and mind through training and sport.

With a ligament tear, wrist degeneration, repetitive strain injury in both hands and mental health issues, Ms Brigden is competing against the best the US has to offer at the Warrior Games.

However, competing is not all about the golden rewards for the Army veteran and mother of two.

“The real takeaway is the experience and the people you meet,” Ms Brigden said.

“And just having that light in your eyes and actually being genuinely proud of yourself.

“For years when you’ve got an injury, a lot of the time you just think, ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t do that’; it can be overwhelming.

“If you can do the best you can and be proud of yourself, then you’ve succeeded.”

It’s not just the competitors who feel the dividends of pride. That hard work and acknowledgment is also a gift for family members who have supported these current and former-serving ADF members through their sometimes-rocky journeys.

For Ms Brigden, it is her husband Ryan, children Phoenix (6) and Mia (2), and parents Colleen and Craig Stone, who make the hours in the gym all worthwhile.

“When I was younger and in training I didn’t have the commitment or the drive, but Mum and Dad did,” she said.

“They were always the ones taking us to comps or getting us up in the mornings.

“So when I swim, part of it is definitely for them to be proud of me because they did put in the effort.

“Family usually sees the worst of you so it’s great to actually give back to them and make them proud and be like, ‘it was worth sticking with me and putting up with me while I struggled’.”

Ms Brigden’s sporting journey won’t finish after competing in powerlifting, rowing, swimming, discus and shot put at the Warrior Games in Florida. The 29-year-old has the World Lifesaving Championships and Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in her sights, and sees herself competing for the next two years.

“I’m really enjoying getting to focus on myself for a bit because the more I put into myself, the happier I am at home,” she said.

“My mental health is significantly better, my injuries and chronic pain significantly less.

“I think it’s worth investing this time into myself and finding that passion for competition and doing things I really enjoy because then I’m a better mum, tenfold.”

The Warrior Games are running until June 30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.

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