The arm-wrenching angle grinder, the tilting bridge, the water gauntlet, the 5 m-high slip face and the 90 kg tyre swing are just a few of the intimidating obstacles that make up the extreme course that is Australian Spartan (Channel 7, Sunday nights at 7 pm).
Australia’s version of the international fitness phenomenon, Spartan Race, is set in a disused oil refinery on the outskirts of Brisbane.
The gruelling format is based on Spartan Race, founded in 2007 by US adventure racer Joe DeSena. The sport has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, with Spartan race events held in more than 30 countries and a number of television adaptations, including in the US and Denmark.
Teams of three must race across a series of spectacular obstacles engineered to challenge their physical and mental toughness. But even more important than the competitors’ strength and agility is their ability to work together as a group—hence the show’s catch-cry of ‘No-one triumphs alone’. If one of the team falls at an obstacle, all are out.
While the ultimate Australian Spartan champions will take away $150,000, money doesn’t seem to be the motivator. It’s the thrill of the challenge, the bonding of the team and the exhilaration of—hopefully—conquering what so few can overcome.
Hosts Edwina Bartholomew, Hamish McLachlan and former professional rugby player Wendell Sailor (as the sideline reporter) introduce us to our spartans and comment on their performances. As you’d expect, there are some inspiring back stories.
One of them is NSW team ‘Unit 5.5’ comprising personal trainer Philip, 23, and his school friends Simon, 25, and Brandon, 24. The team name references the fact that there are five and a half legs between the three of them—Philip’s left leg was amputated after a car accident in 2016.
The course also forces unexpected failures. There’s the sensational elimination at the first—relatively easy—obstacle of Zues Force (Qld), a trio of elite athletes who hold world records, Olympic medals and qualifying times for the Commonwealth Games between them. All it took was one misplaced foot to dip into the pool to disqualify the whole team.
Team spirit is the beauty of Spartan. No individual is more important than another; all members have to rely on, and look out for, each other. If one falters, they all go down. They have to triumph together.
Teamwork is something the Bible talks about in Ecclesiastes chapter 4, verses 9–11.
“Two [or in the case of Australian Spartan, three] are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up.” Indeed, no-one triumphs alone.