Olympic boxer Brad Hore picked up the gloves for the first time as a 10-year-old. He lost every single one of his first 10 fights.
However, Hore was a hungry fighter and every time he was knocked down, he got back up until he qualified for his first Olympic Games as a 17-year-old.
It was at Sydney 2000 that Hore was set to realise his Olympic dream, before a cruel twist of fate meant he didn’t make weight and was disqualified from the competition completely.
But the story didn’t end there for the determined teenager.
Hore continued mastering his craft, competing at Athens 2004 as Australia’s 23rd Indigenous Olympian.
Fifteen years later, Hore has won 175 fights, seven Australian titles, 11 state titles and two golden gloves, but equally impressive is his passionate involvement in improving the lives of his community.
Acting as a mentor and role model for Indigenous youth, Hore has used his experience both in and out of the boxing ring, to give back and educate those who are most vulnerable.
Back in 2013, Hore began working with a company dedicated to educating Indigenous youth on the importance of making positive life choices.
Through his work, Hore mentors young people on subjects like exercise, nutrition and the effects of harmful substances, with the overarching goal of creating a healthier future for the wider indigenous community.
“Along with mentoring young Indigenous kids on leading a healthy lifestyle, I run non-smoking programs within the community,” Hore said.
“The aim is to help them to quit smoking and ultimately prevent the adverse effects of addiction, in order to reduce the health disparities of our people.”
With Indigenous Australians nearly three times as likely to smoke and almost twice as likely to have a disability or restrictive long-term health condition in comparison to non-Indigenous Australians, Hore is determined to bridge the health gap.
Through his one-on-one approach, Hore forms a strong connection with Indigenous kids, encouraging them to make healthier life choices.
“I am able to connect with our young people on a vulnerable level, to show them that they are worthy of help and that they aren’t alone,” the 37-year-old said.
“Increasing the life expectancy of our people is a community effort. The more empowered we feel to make a change, the more likely we are to make positive changes which will carry on through future generations.”
Last year, Hore participated in a joint initiative between the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF) and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) called the ‘Deadly Fun Run’.
The goal of the event was to inspire health and fitness in Indigenous communities across Australia.
150 participants from 20 Indigenous communities ran the relay around Uluru, with Hore and several other Indigenous Olympians supporting the cause and running alongside them.
The Queenslander says supporting and mentoring his community is immensely rewarding, but for him, it has also been a great learning experience.
“Through my work, I have been able to learn more about my own culture, identity and my role in the community.
“I’ve also learnt how beneficial it is for the younger generation to carry on our stories of culture.”
“Teaching our younger generations is where I feel I can make the most difference.
“I’m proud to play a part in helping our Indigenous kids feel accepted for their culture and embrace their background.
“Seeing them take positive steps forward, is so rewarding,” he said.
“Home and family will always be there and going back to country is a healing process, but we are all connected.”
With suicide the leading cause of death for Indigenous youth, mental health is an especially important topic for Hore.
Experiencing his own hardships, these lessons gave him the ability to empathise with his people on a deeper level.
“After Sydney 2000, I really struggled. I was 17 and afterwards I just didn’t want to do anything… I didn’t want to be here,” Hore shared, reminiscing on his missed Olympic debut.
“I went back to the village and everyone knew me as the guy who didn’t make weight, so I had that hanging over me for a long time and I ended up developing anxiety that I still manage today.
“Not making weight really impacted me… I started weighing myself 20-30 times a day and developed a real fear of what the scales would say, even now I still weigh myself 4-5 times a day.”
Hore wants to remove the stigma around mental health and encourage Indigenous youth to speak up.
“In the end, I had to go and see someone about my struggles, and to this day, I still check in with my sports psychologist.
“I had to learn that it’s not bad or weak to seek help, it actually shows real strength and courage and there is nothing wrong with you or who you are, everyone needs someone to talk to whether it be a professional, family or a mate” he said.
“I find that remembering this helps the most when I’m anxious or down. I know reaching out for support and talking about difficult emotions is incredibly important, but I have to be strong enough to acknowledge where I am and reach out for help first.”
“You can’t do anything about what has happened in the past, but you can control your future and I now stand tall and proud because of the resilience I’ve learnt in those tough times.”
Hore believes that goal setting is the first step to tackling those bigger issues.
“Set yourself some small goals instead of trying to take on the bigger issue all at once. Ticking off those little things will add up over time and you’ll notice yourself feeling better because you’ve started making progress and accomplishing things,” he said.
By sharing his story, Hore hopes that the young participants will come away with belief in their own ability to persevere, erasing the mental health gap for future generations.
“If I could go back in time and give my younger self any advice, I would tell him that life is going to throw you some tough competition, some you’ll win and some you’ll learn from, but all of it will help shape you into the person you are today.
“When the going gets tough, you need to believe in yourself and know you are worthy of great things.
“We all deserve to be here, no more, no less than the person next to you.”
Originally published for olympics.com.au