My Geelong

Barwon Heads local Brian Cross. (Rebecca Hosking) 211021_12

Brian Cross was crowned Australia’s fittest man twice and taught karate for 42 years. The Barwon Heads local talks to Luke Voogt about his yearning for Bali and fighting cancer after being told he had nine days to live.

Tell us about you:

I’m 72 and I’ve lived in Barwon Heads for 13 years with my wife Olga. We’ve got two kids and three grandkids. I’ve surfed down here for about 40 years. I used to be a shortboarder but the boards keep getting longer every time I buy them. We built a holiday house down here 32 years ago and moved there from Melbourne as we retired. For 42 years I worked at VicRoads and taught karate. My son’s taken over the that now. I had a new knee done 18 months ago. It was from an industrial accident many years ago. I put up with it but eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t walk.

How far did you get in karate?

I’m a third dan blackbelt. I made the top 10 in Australia 10 years in a row but never won a medal! My son Brett went in three times and won it three times! He’s got talent – I only got there from hard work.

What are your favourite things to do locally?

Virtually every day my wife and I do a 20-something kilometre bike ride then have lunch – we love it! We’ve been going to The Olive Pit in Ocean Grove for ages. They’ve got fantastic staff, they make nice coffee and they bring it out to us on the park bench because of the pandemic. We go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Bellarine Aquatic and Sports Centre.

How are you coping with prostate cancer after your diagnosis in 2016?

I’ve been through major surgery (prostatectomy) but it’s come back again to haunt me, unfortunately. Before I had the surgery, they told me I had nine days to live. I think the only reason I got better was because of the fitness I had from karate. It’s not a nice thing to go through – you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. I have to go to Melbourne every two or three months for assessment. I have hormone treatments and take daily radiation capsules.

How has COVID-19 affected your life?

For 14 years we’ve been going to Bali towards the end of July but that’s not going to happen! The water’s too cold here! So I’m looking forward to going back. But we’re coping as well as anyone else – we’re all in the same boat aren’t we? You’re allowed to go out and ride so we’ve been able to keep reasonably active. The gym stopped for a while. We used to go for 90 minutes but we’re only able to go for about 40 minutes now.

What’s something about you that people might not know?

I won the fittest man in Australia when I was 39 and 40. I reckon it was the hard karate training. We did heaps and heaps of stuff – exercise bike, using gym equipment, heart rate recovery, pushing a weight up an inclined plane – you name it! I ran for about a week!