Gibb River Road challenge taken up by six school children striving to be the youngest ever team
Posted May 04, 2019 07:00:00
The Gibb River Road is one of Western Australia’s roughest outback tracks where bone-rattling corrugations and a jagged rocky surface have claimed countless cars and campervans.
- The Gibb River Challenge is billed as an ultimate endurance test with teams of riders slogging along the dusty track over five days
- School children, teamed as the Gibb Groms, are using the ride to raise awareness for the Royal Flying Doctor Service
- The team has been training by running up hills with backpacks and heavy ropes
Despite its fearsome reputation, six Kimberley school children are preparing to tackle the 660-kilometre route armed with only pedal power.
Broome resident Wyatt Smith, 12, has faced some doubters but was ready to prove his classmates wrong.
“They think I won’t survive, but I will,” he said.
As a member of the Gibb Groms, Wyatt has been training for months to compete in the Gibb River Challenge.
He is hoping to be part of the youngest team ever to complete the challenge.
“I want to push myself and see if I can finish it,” Wyatt said.
Billed as an ultimate endurance test, the event runs over five days and involves teams of riders slogging along the dusty track past breath-taking vistas of untouched country.
The Groms are using the ride to raise awareness for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), which has already played a significant role in their lives.
As an infant, 11-year-old team member Keats Sullivan was badly burned in a farming accident in rural Queensland.
He was flown by the RFDS to a Brisbane burns unit for emergency treatment.
“I had two and three-degree burns, it looked really bad and I was in bandages for a long time,” he said.
His brother Cayden said help was often far away when accidents happened in the bush, and many relied on the RFDS.
“Most of our families have had to fly with them,” he said.
When Caleb McMahon’s father had a heart attack in Fitzroy Crossing, the RFDS helped him reach a specialist in Perth within hours.
“It was scary when we found out dad had a heart attack … I didn’t find out until he was already in Perth,” Caleb said.
Wyatt said he would have lost an arm in a remote buggy accident two years ago, if not for the Flying Doctors.
“When my arm broke it cut off all the blood flow in my arm, so it would have had to be amputated if they didn’t bring me up,” he said.
Like most country kids, they are acutely aware of the importance of the RFDS.
“It can save your life, most people don’t think they need it but sometimes they just might never know,” he said.
For several months, the team has been under a strict training regimen to prepare their bodies for the gruelling conditions.
Three-to-four mornings a week, before school, the Groms have been running up hills with backpacks and heavy ropes.
They also complete rides up to 30 kilometres around Broome.
It has been a challenge for their parents to keep up, according to Kate McMahon.
“We’ve got to get them out of bed and go along to the training, so I think we are just as tired as the kids,” Ms McMahon said.
“As a mother, you do worry about them but at the same time they’ve put a lot of training in — we’re so proud.”
The Gibb River Challenge will begin next month.
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