Australian netball and Ninja Warrior star Verity Charles may be one of the nation’s toughest athletes.
After putting on a spectacular display on Wednesday night, amid her regular professional duties with West Coast Fever, the 28-year-old revealed she persevered through a burst appendix to front up to face the Ninja Warrior course.
Having been in awe for years over the physicality of Ninja Warrior, the Suncorp Super Netball star said nothing was going to keep her from competing, not even a few tentative doctors.
“To be honest I actually didn’t much time to practice for it,” she exclusively told Wide World of Sports.
“My appendix actually burst a couple of weeks beforehand so I was stuck in surgery sorting that out and just recovering.
“I just scraped past getting the doctor’s tick of approval to go do it. I had a couple say they weren’t too happy for me to do it because Ninja Warrior is such a full on sport.
We had to worry about internal ripping or and things like that but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I thought I’d just give it a crack.
And give it a crack she did, skipping past the first two obstacles in a breeze before coming unstuck on the infamous tuning forks.
Never one to shy away from competition, Charles said she had been fascinated by Ninja Warrior from her first glance and when the opportunity arose for her to test her mettle, she grabbed it with both hands.
“I’ve always watched the show and just loved it, I can’t take my eyes off the screen,” she said.
“Just looking at how strong all the athletes were with the body strength it was so inspiring, and I just wanted to get around it and have a crack.
“So when the opportunity arose I just jumped at it and managed to get the tick of approval with netball and was ready to go, so it was pretty exciting.
Despite being a professional athlete, playing centre for the Fever, Charles was by taken aback by the athleticism and physicality the course demanded from the Ninja Warriors.
It’s a totally different game, the body strength and the control people have was just amazing,” she said.
“Just hanging around with the other athletes, I was blown away by it. It was a totally different experience, but I just want to go back and do it again.”
On top of never having competed or trained specifically for Ninja Warrior, Charles was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 17, a day she firmly remembers as a pivotal moment in her life trajectory.
“I had no idea what it even was, I thought it was kind of a ‘just eat jelly beans for the rest of your life’ and to me that sounded pretty good but it was a total opposite kind of thing,” Charles said.
“I remember going into the doctors that day and feeling perfectly normal, and within a two-hour period, I came out with two different needles in my hand, a blood sugar tester and was having six needles a day.
“It was just a crazy little thing. What could happen in the blink of an eye, your whole world changes.”
Now 28, Diabetes has presented Charles with added challenges on top of her high-performance needs as a professional athlete, but she is learning day-by-day how to manage the disease.
“Unfortunately you don’t get a break from diabetes, it’s an everyday constant thing,” she said.
“It can be quite frustrating and trying to manage that with sport can be a whole different ball game
“Your body is a crazy machine and to try and manage that, even when it comes to nerves, especially with Ninja Warrior, if I get nervous my levels rise and when you have high levels, you can’t really focus as well, you’re quite scattered you don’t feel right so you’ve really got to find your Zen moment
“So its opened up a lot of meditation with me but it’s a wild little ride having diabetes and I’m still learning with it, but it was an absolute game changer that day.”
Charles says she doesn’t need to be defined by her illness and wants to show that nothing can hold anyone back so as they “back themselves”.
“I have a lot of young girls I netball message me and ask how do you do this or that, they can be quite nervous, having lows and highs,” she said. “But I think the biggest thing is, while I love to play netball or do Ninja Warrior you don’t have to be held back by anything to because you do have a disease.
“A lot of people have a disease and a lot of them are doing amazing things and i just want to put my little stamp out there too that this doesn’t stop anything and to back yourself.”
One of her biggest supporters is her husband Nathan Charles who is a professional rugby player that also deals with a disease, Cystic Fibrosis.
The couple are each other’s biggest fans but if they get on the court together, all bets are off, Charles revealed.
“Our main objective was to beat each other out on the course,” she said,
“Who is going to be the best in the household, that’s the competition.
“Anything we do together, even at the golf course. And we can’t even play basketball together because we get out of control.
“We’re a competitive couple but that’s the fun of it, and that’s why it was so great to have him out there by my side was a lot sweeter.”