Alexia Vlahos had to face an unexpected medical discharge from the Army, which left the 23-year-old scared and deflated. Channeling her fears into something productive, Alexia applied to compete in the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney – and she hasn’t looked back.
Alexia looks back on her impending separation from the Army as, “I’ve never been so scared in my life.. or so crushed.”
That is how Alexia Vlahos, former Army driver at Amberley felt when she was given the devastating news that she could no longer serve in the Australian Army.
Whilst her injuries may not stem from a traditional combat story, the impact of a reoccurring knee injury and subsequent surgeries and reconstructions took too much of a toll on her career.
“When I found out I was being medically discharged, I was only a week or two post my second knee reconstruction so I was pretty impaired.. I then found out about the Invictus Games and it put my mind aside from thinking about what I was going to do or whether I’m going to be financially okay or whether I could stay in Brisbane or not,” she said.
Originally hailing from Western Australia, the budding athlete said the thing she treasured the most during her career was serving alongside her Army mates, which she lovingly refers to as “her family”.
“Honestly, just being with my mates and going through some rough situations like tough PT sessions where we’re all dying but we all have each other’s back were the best times in the Army.. because we’re all like family,” Vlahos said.
However, she’s found a new family within the Invictus camp who Vlahos said have all been helpful and inspiring as she prepares to compete for the first time.
“When I was first discharged, I lost my [Army] family, I’d come home to an empty house and felt quite lonely,” she said.
“Invictus has really brought me back into that Defence environment again where I feel included.”
Competing in athletics, indoor rowing and powerlifting (something she randomly stumbled into, but now loves), Vlahos is prepared to take on skilled former and current Defence personnel from across the globe – but not without a few nerves.
“I’m nervous just even thinking about it,” Vlahos admitted.
“I don’t want to disappoint anyone or disappoint myself.
“But I’m super excited to be with the Australian team and see them strive and get their PB’s and to see them happy.. I’m excited to be in that team environment and see people who are way worse off than me achieve things that you never thought they ever could.”
The training schedule for Vlahos has been so strict and time consuming that she had to quit her job as a Construction Site Manager to focus on the upcoming Games. However, the young gun has no regrets – and in fact encourages other former or current Defence personnel to consider applying for next year’s Invictus Games.
“Try out, because you don’t want to look back at your life and wish you tried out for it,” she said.
“Put yourself out there – it’s such a good experience both mentally and physically and you make life long friends.”
The Invictus Games will host 500 competitors and 1,000 spectators between the 20 and 27 October in Sydney. For updates, visit invictusgamesfoundation.org.