Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 16:00
Brenden Hall: Paralympian, volunteer surf lifesaver and UQ student.
Brenden Hall: Paralympian, volunteer surf lifesaver and UQ student.

Not long after his leg was amputated at age six, Brenden Hall remembers laughing almost uncontrollably whenever he would lose his balance and topple to the ground.

“It was a hilarious joke to all of us at primary school,” the UQ Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Sciences  student says, smiling.

“I would laugh about it more than anybody and, after we all had a chuckle, the other kids would help pick me up.

“I definitely think the attitude of my friends and family at that time gave me an advantage.

“Nobody treated me any differently or put me in a bubble, and my parents never held me back from trying anything.”

Now aged 22, Hall has justification to feel aggrieved at the world.

Unlike the majority of us who contract chicken pox in our lifetime, Hall was left with a permanent reminder after complications claimed his right leg and 70% of his hearing.

As someone who loved - and continues to love – physical activity, it was an exorbitant price to pay.

Yet he is clearly not one to dwell on misfortune for long periods.

“A year after the amputation the Olympics were in Sydney and I watched an athlete, missing a leg like me, compete in one of the Paralympic events,” he explains.

“I’d been a swimmer since I was three and I continued with my classes, but this was an extra incentive.

“About 18 months before the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, my coach encouraged me to give it a serious go.”

As it eventuated, Hall became the youngest male member of the Australian swim squad to go to China, qualifying at just 15-years-old.

Though he didn’t win a medal at those games, he broke the world record for the men’s 400m freestyle in the qualifying heats for the S9 category.

The 400m freestyle has become his pet event, with the 196cm crawler perfectly suited for the craft with his long and angular arms.

However he regularly competes in races of all four major strokes, as well as relays and medleys.

At the London 2012 Paralympics he won gold in the 400m freestyle and 4 x 100m freestyle relay, while this year in the S9 class he won the 100m backstroke and 400m freestyle at the World Championships in Glasgow.

At the World Champs he also secured bronze for the 100m freestyle and 4 x 100m freestyle.

“I’d say, based on that meet, I am looking good for the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, but I’ll still have to pass trials,” Hall says.

“I’m more than capable of swimming the qualifying times if I swim to my potential.”

Amazingly, the Petrie resident not only combines his athletic pursuits and university studies.

He also volunteers as a Surf Lifesaver at Metropolitan Caloundra, based at Kings Beach on the Sunshine Coast.

Now, stop for a moment and think about how mind-blowing an achievement that is in its own right.

“It was something I’d always wanted to do and after the London Paralympics I focused a lot of energy on it,” he says.

“I tend to use crutches when I am on duty, and even just proving that I could manoeuvre in the rescue boat and lift patients required a whole process to go through.

“I was practising with my brother Marcus, who is just as tall as me, but a bit more barrel-chested, so he wasn’t an easy fella to rescue.”

Not surprisingly, Hall’s lifesaving club has shown interest in him competing at future events.

He’s also met with representatives for Paralympic rowing and canoeing and has recently been given a customised running leg to help him pursue an interest in triathlon.

But at least for the coming years, the UQ Clem Jones Sporting Scholarship recipient knows his passion is in the pool and protecting his dominance over the 400m in particular.

In regards to his studies, he acknowledges it will require some balance over the next 12 months, but he would be happy if he can graduate into a role in sports science or strength and conditioning.

Past that, he has developed a taste in physiotherapy and is weighing up whether to take on extra studies in that field.

We know one thing’s for certain.

There will be no holding him back whatever he elects to do.