Stuff the rulebook, says Sam who shows he can
Barriers are there to be broken down and with a fearless attitude and bold beliefs, people with disability are showing the world they can.
Despite what society says can be achieved, disabilities are not what define a person and through the likes of fitness fanatic and Cross Fitter Sam Stubbs, the rulebook is being rewritten.
Sam is one in every 1100 babies born in Australia with Down Syndrome, but with a fearless attitude and approach, it’s never held him back.
Determined to prove any doubters wrong, such as doctors who told his parents Chris and Debra to limit expectations, the boy from Jervis Bay achieves every goal he sets and proudly says, “I am Sam, and I can”. “The medical profession
actually told us that Sam would never walk or talk, so, they got that one wrong,” Debra said.
“Sam’s got such determination, and the highest self-esteem of anyone I know. And so, he’s amazed us over the years by what his body has actually achieved.”
With a beaming smile and infectious personality, the keen sportsman, musician, singer and social butterfly shines in the spotlight of Feros Care and Screenworks’ Fearless Films.
Capturing people with disability living their boldest lives, the six-part series follows the journey of the likes of Sam, who says “stuff the rulebook” on his way to achieving any goal he sets for himself. With a belief and commitment
to achieving any goal he sets embodying the essence of the films, Sam also proudly smashes any doubts of the ability of a person with disability to achieve the success they seek.
“I’m 21 and born with Down Syndrome, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do everything,” Sam says with a customary big grin.
“I have a great life, work at a bakery, a bar and do garden maintenance… but I love sport, Aussie rules, cricket; I do triathlon, swimming, I like everything.”
While about 50% of all babies born with Down Syndrome face life with a congenital heart defect and a far greater risk of health concerns and conditions such as ear infections, eye issues, iron deficiency, low muscle tone and susceptibility to hip
dislocation, the likes of Sam not only deal with their health barriers, but thrive.
Sam is a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant, but he doesn’t surround himself with disability and refuses to be defined by it.
Sharing a strong bond with sister, Molly, and best friend, Patrick, Sam’s love of sport is equalled by a love of going to gigs to see favourite band, “Debbies”, bashing away on the drums, having a few beers and jumping on stage to
Standing side-by-side with his best mate, Patrick said Sam’s disability was, and should be, a non-factor, with the colourful character simply just one of the guys.
“Honestly, I think Sam is just a regular 21-year-old boy, but he’ll give anything a go,” Patrick said.
“I see him as just my best mate.”
That willingness to have a go and shed any perceived barriers is part of a worldwide movement seeking inclusion and respect for disabled athletes to create an even and fair playing field.
Sparked domestically in 1986 by Sport Inclusion Australia who pushed for people with an intellectual disability to be embraced through the medium of sport, the movement has made giant strides, as has been shown across all disabilities by the overwhelming
support of Paralympians, who have captured hearts and minds in showing the world what they can do after finally being added to Olympic and Commonwealth Games’ programs.
As acceptance, inclusivity and pathways continue to improve, people with disability are continually showing their amazing abilities from international-level, right down to grassroots and community-level.
Seizing the opportunity to play a part in athletes’ journeys to achieving their goals, Feros Care’s support of Special Olympics Mackay assisted athletes with intellectual disabilities to compete alongside non-disability athletes
at the Australian Powerlifting Union State Championships in Nambour in August.
Crucially it’s the desire to compete with non-disabled athletes and all abilities through the likes of Sam, which is carrying the torch lit at the Paralympics forward. However, athletes with disability the world over have long been re-writing
the rulebook, often competing with, and defeating, non-disabled athletes in mainstream sport.
American powerlifter Jon Stoklosa was a gold medallist at the Special Olympics World Games in 1999, before going onto compete against non-disabled athletes. “Not taken seriously” when he made the transition, he quickly gained everyone’s
respect as a fearless and powerful lifter capable of anything.
Combining his Aussie rules exploits in representing NSW and joining the coaching panel at his local club with interests in cricket, zip lining, soccer, surfing and a dedication to the gym, Sam is tracking a similar path to Jon.
Recently competing in the gruelling Battle of Benton CrossFit event with personal trainer Jodi against the best in NSW, Sam’s efforts as the only athlete with disability competing was captured perfectly by filmmaker, Hiromi Matsuoka for aptly
titled Fearless Film, I Am Sam.
Also documenting the journey leading up to the competition, the film reflects the permanent smile and steely determination of a young man doing every day, regular things, and importantly, the things he wants, his way, like with CrossFit.
“I did CrossFit to begin with,” Chris said.
“I introduced Sam to it and was keen for the two of us to go together, and he said, ‘no, I want to do this by myself’.”
Competing in teams, Sam and Jodi secured a special mention for their efforts, and Sam’s mental approach, belief, fitness and determination to compete saw him take it all in his stride.
“I had fun and I’m going to do it again,” he said.
Raising the bar even higher, Sam’s love of fitness and challenging himself sees him dead lift an impressive 100kgs, train four days-a-week with Jodi, and target physically demanding competition.
Setting his sights on the 2020 Bay Games, Sam has also overhauled his diet, cutting a fit and muscled figure; losing 10kgs in the process.
Not only focused on his own self-improvement and achievement, Sam is also paying it forward. A role model, Sam recently addressed a NSW Down Syndrome Conference on the importance of staying fit, and is also an assistant
coach at the Bay and Basin Bombers Aussie rules club.
“He’s got a tremendous drive and a desire to keep going… I don’t believe he should be limited by what expectations are, and he’s probably exceeded that, Chris said.
“There are things he tries and excels at and he’s not afraid to have a go.