Pictured: Bree Malberg, Australia.
Bree Mellberg refused to accept the life her doctors outlined for her after an accident in 2013 put her in a wheelchair.
“A mediocre life is not for me,” said the 32-year-old recipient of the BWF Female Participation Grant 2022, which supports a new athlete’s participation needs, including classification.
An active child, she took up gymnastics very young and switched to diving at the age of 15, representing Australia in the 10m platform at the 2008 World Junior Championships.
Mellberg was already a highly-accomplished athlete when, while playing with friends, she fell off a trampoline and broke her neck, suffering dislocation along the spine from the C6 to T3 vertebrae.
“This was one of those freak accidents that changes your life forever. My family got me through my worse days after the accident. I love my mum’s attitude, she doesn’t need to see the medals. She just wants me to be happy.”
Pictured: Ian Bridge (Coach) and Bree Malberg.
Not one to stay down for long, Mellberg started playing wheelchair basketball after meeting Tina MacKenzie, a 10-year veteran of the Australian team.
“Before the accident, I felt invincible. After, I had to relearn how to use my hands and feed myself. There was a pivotal point in rehab when I realised my body knew how to be an athlete. I just had to adjust what I knew to what I can do now. At first it was hard because I had limited movement in my hands but when you get out of your day chair and into the sport chair, you go faster and move easier. I enjoyed that freedom.”
Mellberg joined the Australian wheelchair basketball team in 2018 and represented her country at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
After Tokyo, she decided to go back to school and is currently working on her PhD in Biochemistry and Genetics at La Trobe University in Victoria. She recently married her partner of five years, Daniel Wright.
Then she found badminton. And the Female Participation Grant has allowed Mellberg to be classified as a Wheelchair (WH1) player while funding her participation needs for the 4th Fazza Dubai Para Badminton International 2022.
“I met Ian in Tokyo. He asked me to promote an event for women in Victoria in January. Once I had the racket in my hand, there was no going back,” said Mellberg.
“I remember wanting to be an Olympian since the age of three. I have sacrificed so much to get to the Paralympics but it was a team sport. With badminton, I love that feeling of being able to play for myself. Yes, we are a team but on court I’m on my own. It’s nice because I get to set my own goals.”