beyondblue Ambassador Kyle Vander Kuyp is an Olympian who holds the Australian record for the fastest men’s 110m hurdles. Kyle was adopted when he was five weeks old by a Dutch father and Australian mother. His biological mother is Indigenous and his biological father has an Irish heritage. Kyle met his biological mother in 2004.
"I’d always wondered ‘Where do these legs come from? How come I’m so tall?’ When I met my biological family, I discovered my biological grandfather was pretty tall and very athletic. He was part of the Simon family and my grandmother was a Stewart – both have a long history of sporting talent. On the Stewart side are the Ella brothers (Mark, Glen and Gary) who played for Australia and pretty much changed the whole game of rugby union. They’re guys that I looked up to as a young kid. When I found my family, I found out they’re my first cousins!
"I joined Little Athletics when I was young and tried every event. At the age of 10, I decided hurdles was what I really liked doing. It was a good event with a technical challenge and I could catch up on the guys that were a bit better than me in the sprints. I was the Victorian State Champion at primary school and that’s probably where I said ‘Yep Mum, this is what I want to do – I want to be a hurdler.’
"I still hold the Australian record for the fastest men’s 110m hurdles (13.29 seconds at the 1995 World Championships). At that World Champs, I came fifth in the final and the next year I made an Olympic final (Atlanta) – so the mid-90s was when I hit my best. I was able to win 12 national titles spanning from 1992 through to 2006 – eight of those were consecutive.
"In 2004, I was pushing my body and mind to the max. I’d had a bit of a rough patch with a relationship that ended in February of ’04. In the 2004 season, I’d won the national title, but I’d missed the (Olympic) qualifying time by one-tenth of a second. That meant I had to go to Europe and keep trying. I had to fund that myself and that put me under more pressure. At that time, I really wanted to meet my biological mum. I met her in May, went to Europe in June, missed the Olympics in July. By about September I was like ‘I’ve got to see somebody’.
"I knew a professor who worked closely with beyondblue and I rang her and she said ‘Let’s have a good chat about how you’re feeling, what’s been happening, and I’m going to guide you to somebody’. That’s when I went and saw a psychiatrist.
"I had five sessions with him and he said ‘Kyle, you’re going really well, you express yourself well and you’re going to be fine’. It sort of just deconstructed everything that was happening and he did it in his professional way and I felt a lot better.
"I’ve learned a lot since becoming a beyondblue Ambassador. Depression can happen to anyone, it’s different for everyone and there are different ways it can be treated. It’s something people don’t feel comfortable talking about, but when I’ve shared my story, it’s helped a lot of people and I’ve had feedback like ‘It was great to hear that you went through that and got through that’. I think it helps break down the barriers.
"If I’ve got a chance to encourage people to take the first step and talk to someone, then I’m really happy to be an Ambassador. I would say however you’re feeling, don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for help and share what you’re feeling.
"I still get overwhelmed and I get anxiety, but it’s when I reach out and share what I’m going through that I realise I’ve probably made it a bit bigger than what it is.
"I still have interest in the sport. I’ve done some mentoring over the last three years and I’m still keen to help nurture young athletes. I’ve got dreams of setting up an elite academy one day that has top-class facilities where kids can go and be proud of who they are and reach a high level. Indigenous young talent should have access to the best facilities.
"In 2011–12, I was a program manager for Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), a not for profit organisation working with Indigenous high school students and matching them with volunteer university students as mentors. I am currently working for AFL SportsReady as an Indigenous Mentor to school-based and full-time trainees.
"My daughter Kyochre is growing up so quick and absorbs everything. It’s been great to be a role model to other kids over the years, but being a parent is the real role model. That’s the role model you’ve waited years to become, so I’m looking forward to seeing her grow up."