Photo by Ann Odong.
Every athlete has a story to tell. We're lucky enough to listen and learn from those stories every day.
Earlier in the year we had the privilege of mentoring CommBank ParaMatilda, Nicole Christodoulou. Her story and passion for sharing it blew us away.
Nicole is an athlete with story and a mission to share it for purpose. At 21 she survived two strokes, which resulted in the entire left side of her body being paralysed.
She had to relearn how to walk, run and kick a ball. That last part's important because while she was in hospital, all she wanted was to play one last game of football. Now, she's part of Australia's first national football team for women and girls with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury and symptoms of stroke.
She shares her story to inspire others to embrace resilience and persistence so they can reach their full potential.
After hearing Nicole's story and seeing the impact she's created, we had to share it with you. Enough from us, please allow us introduce you to this inspirational athlete.
Hi, Nicole! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. To start, can you please tell us a little about you?
My name is Nicole Christodoulou and I am a CommBank ParaMatilda. I had two strokes when I was 21 years old, so almost 10 years ago, and since then I have been so appreciative of my life and the fact that I have a second chance to be the best version of myself I can be!
How have you been able to share your story with the world?
I have been able to share my story through multiple speaking opportunities, from speaking at whole school assemblies, to speaking at Football Australia donor and sponsorship events, to sharing my story with the communities at the Inner West Council in NSW and even meeting with the Prime Minister (Mr Anthony Albanese), Sports Minister (Ms Anika Wells) and Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Mr Bill Shorten) at the Parliament House. I have also been featured on numerous news segments featuring my story for the Stroke Foundation and for Football Australia.
Photo by Mark Avellino
What drives you to share your story?
I love sharing my story, especially because I have had lots of positive feedback from stroke survivors and other people experiencing hardship in their lives. My story provides hope for those who are facing challenges in their lives that need to know that hardship is always temporary.
My view on life has changed following my strokes and I want to share with everyone that life is beautiful and to take time out during every day to appreciate the little things, which are often the most important.
Watch Nicole tell her story on The Project.
Public speaking is one way you've been able to share your story. How did you get started?
I started sharing my story when I was called back to hospital during Stroke Awareness Week, where I gave a speech 6 months after my stroke. I also gave a speech at a local gym that my nurse, physiotherapist and occupational therapist also attended back in 2014, again, for Stroke Awareness Week.
Following on, I then began speaking at numerous events for Football Australia as a CommBank ParaMatilda, where my speaking gigs took off, receiving fantastic feedback and even causing a few tears in the audiences along the way.
What have been some of the benefits of sharing your story?
I believe that some benefits of sharing my story include raising young stroke awareness and inspiring others to make the most out of their lives. I love sharing the message that life is so beautiful, but it can also be short. Challenges and hardships are temporary, but we also need to work hard if we want to better our lives too.
Photo by Mark Avellino
You're also an ambassador for Stride4Stroke. What do you love about being an ambassador?
The Stroke Foundation’s aim to support stroke victims and their families, promote research and save as many people from permanent disabilities and even death, is for me, a no brainer. To promote their message, to spread the word and to inform those around me of stroke, the severity and how we can recognise the signs to potentially save someone’s life, is the greatest honour.
How do you think your brand has helped you with speaking and ambassador role?
My brand has helped me with my speaking and ambassador role as it is one of a kind. It isn’t often you hear of such positive experiences following a stroke and I feel that my story is my own that no one else has the ability or experience to retell.
What do you wish you'd known when you first started sharing your story and building your brand?
I wish I knew of the avenues I could have taken to share my story and to connect and network with like-minded people earlier. This may have led to me pursuing my speaking journey a lot quicker, as I am still trying to navigate my way through professional speaking work, currently. I could have also set up my personal brand earlier, too. Thankfully it is never too late, as The Brand Builders have supported me with this journey this year.
The Final Word
Nicole is a one-of-a-kind athlete and a shining example of an athlete doing good things in the world. This is the power of the athlete voice and athlete brand.