New Zealander, Francis Cullimore took on the Australian Ninja Warrior course in Season 1, and is now hoping his ninja fame can assist him in combating depression.
At the dawn of his post-sport life, Cullimore says he didn’t know what to do. He’s been an MMA fighter, a 7s player, played in the Super Rugby tournament, represented New Zealand with the Junior Kiwis and was selected to to go to the Winter Olympics with the Australian bobsled team before injury ruled him out. He likes trying new codes.
In an anxiety-fuelled panic, Cullimore says he ended up in hospital under close monitoring. It was the end of 2016, just as he was going onto his next athletic feat: Ninja Warrior.
Dan Vickerman, a former teammate of Cullimore’s, committed suicide in February. This prompted Cullimore to take a look at his own mental health.
“I struggled myself and what caused me to seek out help was Dan Vickerman. We all thought he had it sorted, he had three kids and working in property and development,” he said.
“That’s where I thought if I’m having these sorts of thoughts about being worthless and contemplating the transition into the workforce, this could be quite dangerous and I needed to get it checked out.
“Luckily I did seek help and got diagnosed with depression and now it’s being treated. I wish I had figured this out earlier.”
Now he’s enjoying competing in sport, his main focuses being Australian Ninja Warrior and bodybuilding.
He said growing up in Whangarei helped his effort a lot.
“I lived right next to Whangarei Falls. I’d go out there and be climbing trees, I’d pretend that I was a ninja with my neighbours running around outside,” he said.
“The lack of social media and technology really helped. I want to try get kids back doing stuff outside.”