WE GOT THERE: Justin Gibbs (far right), his brother Ryan and good mates Chris Conyard and Joe Comben give the Kokoda Challenge a go, eight months after Justin’s accident.
WE GOT THERE: Justin Gibbs (far right), his brother Ryan and good mates Chris Conyard and Joe Comben give the Kokoda Challenge a go, eight months after Justin’s accident.

From broken back to tackling 96km Kokoda Challenge

TOUGH times don't last... tough people last forever.

Those were the words that were literally staring former Rockhampton man Justin Gibbs in the eye as he was lying motionless on his Cairns hospital bed.

The phrase was written on a placard and placed in front of him during his recovery battle last year.

Last November, Justin, a former hockey player for Rocky Souths, fractured his spine when he slipped off a 10m-high cliff while resting during a mountain bike ride at Smithfield, near Cairns.

He told The Morning Bulletin yesterday he simply went to look behind him, to see if his younger brother Ryan Gibbs was okay, before he slipped.

The 27-year-old doctor got his head jammed between two rocks and his back was in unprecedented pain. He avoided spinal cord damage.

Ryan, who Justin said was his best mate, scaled down the cliff to his older brother and sat there supporting the latter's back while emergency crews were travelling to the pair.

Ryan and Justin spent about 45 minutes on that cliff-side before a rescue chopper got to them.

He was transported to Cairns Hospital, where he spent two weeks in recovery.

Doctor Chris Conyard, one of his best mates, planted the seed Justin needed to get him through his agonising situation.

Chris motivated Justin to take up the 96km Kokoda Challenge, at the Gold Coast, once he recovered. But at the time, Justin couldn't bear to think about it because he was struggling to walk.

The Kokoda Challenge's length is equal to that of the actual Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and the 39-hour cut-off limit is in honour of the 39th Militia, the first Australian troops to set foot on the Kokoda Track.

On Sunday, Justin, brother Ryan, doctor pal Chris and good university friend Joe Comben completed the challenge in just over 20 hours.

"It was one of the hardest and most enduring challenges I've ever faced. After the accident, I lost something; I think it was that fearlessness you have before you go on an adventure," he said.

Justin is now based in Mackay with his wife and his 10-month-old son.



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