VESPA parabiathlon – helping veterans find purpose through sport

A message from Prince’s Trust Australia

After more than 30 years of service in the British Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Gary ‘Curtis’ Steiger has taken the discipline and attention to detail he acquired in the Navy and used it to launch VESPA Parabiathalon

VESPA supports medically discharged ADF and emergency services personnel to compete in the biathlon – a rigorous Winter Olympic sport combining cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship.

The competition challenges VESPA athletes physically and mentally but provides much-needed support to rebuild their identity, sense of purpose, and community after service.

‘Biathlon is so challenging technically, physically and mentally that it’s the perfect sport to promote wellbeing among veterans who’ve been discharged medically,’ says Curtis, a former ADF Biathlete himself. ‘They’ve lost the comradery of the military, had their craft and profession taken from them.’

Taryn Dickens exemplifies VESPA’s mission. Taryn was diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy in May 2019, and works with Gigi, a Defence Community Dog, to help her navigate her vision impairment.

According to Curtis, ‘Taryn was struggling to get out of bed for the last eight months and then she went cross-country skiing for the first time, and it's given her purpose.

Retraining from Track Cycling to Nordic Skiing less than a year ago, Taryn has already been invited to take part in entry-level World Nordic Skiing events this year, putting her on track to fulfil her ambition of competing at the Winter Paralympics in 2026.

This latest video from Prince's Trust Australia highlights VESPA’s incredible work.

Curtis launched VESPA with the help of Prince’s Trust Australia’s free Enterprise program. The Enterprise program supports veterans and military partners to launch and grow small businesses and charities across Australia.

Register for a Prince’s Trust Australia Enterprise programme, which is sponsored in part by DVA.

Prince's Trust Australia is a national charity that helps young people prepare for the rapidly changing world of work, inspires veterans and families into entrepreneurship and self-employment, and champions resilient sustainable communities.

Biathlon is so challenging, technically, physically, and mentally that it's the perfect sport to promote wellbeing among veterans who have been discharged medically.