Throughout their lives Melbourne’s Leigh Chivers and Brisbane’s Elle Goodall have been on dramatically different journeys, with vastly different experiences.
Their stories are nothing alike, yet they share similar strengths, similar hopes and a very intense love of family. They are also linked by a shared passion to one day compete at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i.
By overcoming great challenges and inspiring others to do something not thought possible that dream is now one step closer, with both Leigh and Elle having been named IRONMAN Ambassador Athletes for 2018.
Leigh Chiver’s journey with wife Sara and sons Hugh and Alfie is a story of intense love, passion, commitment, enormous strength, honouring of life and the desire to fulfil a promise.
In 2008, Sara fought and beat brain cancer only to have it return in March 2017. Then only six months later the couple were devastated to learn the unimaginable, that their 18 month old son Alfie was suffering a different yet equally devastating form of brain cancer.
Fighting pain and grief and having defied doctor’s predictions for months, in January 2018, at the age of 34, Sara finally lost her battle. Tragically less than six months later, Leigh and Hugh also lost Alfie.
“I have tried and lost this battle, brutally, twice. The future I thought I would have doesn’t exist anymore… for a lot of reasons, my future has lost a lot of the meaning and goals I previously used as fuel.,” Leigh said at the time.
One of Sara’s greatest wishes was for her husband to compete in the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, an opportunity Leigh had already qualified for in 2014 but had to forgo. Now as an IRONMAN Ambassador Athlete, Sara’s wish for her husband will come to fruition.
“I have qualified before at IRONMAN Australia but I couldn’t go because Hugh was sick at the time. That is what this was all about, it was the thing that we were supposed to do, and we were going to do but never got around to. So, going to Hawai`i is about finishing this for both of us.”
“I think I am in a bit of shock,” Leigh said on being told the news. “The overwhelming feeling is that I can’t believe the way that Sara has touched people through our story. This again demonstrates how she has been able to reach people and make my dreams come true, not only early in our life together but again, again, again. This is a dream of mine and she made it happen. I am just blown away really.”
“Sara understood that I tend to set goals and move towards them and writing me the letter and giving me the permission and saying ‘Leigh you need to go after this’ was because she understood me and understood that I would need to have something to look forward to, something to think about in the future. She understood that that would help me through the hard times. She was pretty clever.”
“Sara would be getting a big kick out of this. I am honoured…I will be thinking of them the whole way and thinking of how blessed we all are that we are able to do such amazing events as this and blessed that we were able to do it and experience it. The way I will honour them is by loving every moment of it and doing the best that I can.”
“Hugh will be coming and this will just be a happy memory for us to hold onto forever. He will know in time that this was mum’s gift and we will make sure it is special for both of us. It will be a great memory for us and I look forward to the energy of Kona. I know I will be able to touch it and it will be positive,” Leigh said.
When Elle Goodall crossed the finish line at IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns in 2017 she was greeted by her two very happy and very relieved parents Paul and Julie. Happy that they had just seen their daughter accomplish one of her amazing personal goals but more so relieved that they still had their daughter in their lives.
For Elle the race was another part of her incredible journey that had seen her rediscover herself and turn her life around, incredibly losing more than 120kg in in the process.
“Two years earlier my parents thought they were going to lose me, so to have them there to watch me was a huge deal for me. The finish line was incredibly emotional and both mum and dad were crying. Dad looked at me and I have never seen him look at me like he did. All he said to me was ‘You are alive and you have just done a half ironman. Your mum and I were preparing for the worst and look what you have just done. I am just so proud of you’. And he had never said that to me before so for him to express that it meant so much to me.”
Elle’s weight peaked at 184kg and with that came a whole range of health, emotional and lifestyle issues.
“Life was incredibly difficult, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t tie my own shoes, I couldn’t walk a 100m without having to sit down and have a rest. If I fell over I couldn’t get back up which was very embarrassing. For me back then it was normal, it was embarrassing but it was my life and how I was living.”
Over the past three years Elle has totally transformed herself physically through triathlon, from laying on the couch, to Enticer, Sprint, Olympic distance triathlon to the IRONMAN 70.3 and finally IRONMAN Cairns in June 2018. Inspiring others to also believe that “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”.
All the time, she fostered a dream to one day compete at the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawai`i. A dream that as an IRONMAN Ambassador Athlete is now a reality.
“It is 2:40 am and I still haven’t slept,” Elle wrote, unable to sleep. “I am just so excited and over the moon that I’m just not tired. I tried to sleep but just had so much running through my head I had to get up and start planning ha, ha, ha. There is so much to think about and so little time.”
“So what is going through my head? Wow. I just can’t believe it. When I got home I sat there at the table with the framed Kona bib in front of me just staring at it. That is all my hopes and dreams right there. Kona wow.”
“What does this mean to me? I think the look on my face when I was given the frame said it all. Kona is where everyone who is anyone goes. It is where the people who have made it get to go, this to me is like closure. It symbolises that I have completely turned my life around and regained what I was once losing grip of. Life.”
“This is me grabbing life and saying I will live well into my older years, thanks to this sport that saved my me.”
“I am going to Kona. Kona baby, I just can’t believe it,” a delighted Elle squealed.