SAM Bramham loves a good prank, a characteristic that has earned the two-time Paralympian his fair share of notoriety. But now he is putting his fame to good use by inspiring youngsters at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Bramham was born without a femur, and had his leg amputated above the knee at age five. At 12 he joined Disability Sport and Recreation (formerly Wheelchair Sport Victoria), which encouraged him to take to the pool and compete.
Four years later, in 2006, he swam at his first Paralympics in Athens, where he set a world record in the heats of the 100m butterfly and won bronze in the finals, and picked up gold in the 4x100m medley relay and silver in the 4x100m freestyle medley relay.
In Athens, Bramham also proved his prankster credentials, persuading an American journalist that his leg was mauled by a monster kangaroo. He later apologised, but American journalists have been wary of him ever since.
More triumphs in the pool followed. He won another gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and competed in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
There was also more mischief, with his arrest in 2007 for staging a shark attack off the NSW coast. “I’m always looking for ways to turn my disability to my advantage in terms of pranks … to lighten things up,” he says.
He hints that the shark prank may have gone too far, but it has opened doors on the public speaking circuit. Receiving an Order of Australia Medal in 2009 for his service to sport hasn’t hurt either.
Now a little older and wiser, Bramham, 24, has become a Disability Sport and Recreation ambassador, and is a key part of the organisation’s new Royal Children Hospital program for young people who have a disability.
He says his work at the children’s hospital is particularly rewarding, as he’s helping kids the way DSR helped him.
His says his key message is not to let a disability get in the way.
“As far as we know, we only get one life: live it to the max,” he says.
Bramham practises what he preaches. He’s in training for the London Paralympics in August–September. “It’s going to be my last one,’’ he says. ‘‘I’ve achieved everything I wanted to do as a swimmer.”
Post-Paralympics, Bramham wants to complete his marketing degree and continue to motivate youngsters. When asked if he has one last prank up his sleeve, he begins to outline an elaborate gag involving a prominent British amputee, but stops himself mid-thought. “I’m not sure if I’ll do that,” he says.
Whether he goes ahead with it or not, this role model looks set to continue living to the max. Watch this space.