By NATALIA HAWK
Andrea Wheatley is a 37-year-old osteopath from Victoria. She’s also a world champion in Filipino stick-fighting.
Yes, you read that correctly. During the day, Andrea works at a clinic; in the mornings, and in the evenings, she trains in the traditional martial art of the Philippines, which emphasises weapon-based fighting with sticks, grappling and hand-to-hand combat.
Inspired by the Karate Kid and other Bruce Lee movies as a child (yes, really), Andrea has been practicing martial arts for 24 years.
In June of this year, Andrea managed to win four medals – three gold, one silver – at the Australasian Stick-fighting Titles, held in Adelaide. More recently, she took part in the CDP Stick-fighting World Championships where she won gold, silver and bronze.
But what makes Andrea’s story so remarkable is that she hasn’t been able to compete in martial arts for the last five years. In fact, she’s had to spend 35 months in rehabilitation, after an illness caused nerve damage to the three most important nerves of her leg. For those of you who know anything about nerves, Andrea’s sciatic, femoral and obturator nerves at the level of the lumbar plexus were damaged.
She walked with a pronounced limp. “I would walk into shops and people would think I was drunk because I was stumbling,” is the way Andrea explains it. She was told by experts that she would never walk properly again.