Meet the Champion of the Kokoda Virtual Challenge

18 May 2020
Sam Barham and Doug Henderson greeting each other with an elbow bump during the Kokoda Virtual Challenge while COVID-19 restrictions are still in place

Sam Barham was absolutely devastated when he had to drop out at the 80km mark in the 2019 Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge event. With only 16 kilometres to go, Sam was understandably exhausted and unfortunately had to officially withdraw from the event but he was still determined that one day he would cross the 96km Kokoda Challenge finish line.

After months of rigorous training, now 17-year-old Sam was certain that 2020 was going to be the year that he would fulfill his goal. He was ready to take on the 96km event again and finish it with his three other school mates who all attend LORDS (Lutheran Ormeau Rivers District School).

When the Kokoda Youth Foundation made the difficult to decision to cancel all events as a result of COVID-19 and instead run the Kokoda Virtual Challenge where competitors had the month of May to complete 96kms in an attempt to keep the Kokoda community together, Sam decided that this was his opportunity to complete the full 96kms all in one go.

He mapped out his own route and planned to meet his Mum at various spots along the way so she could act as his support crew and provide him with some food, water and much needed motivation. Many of Sam’s friends, family, school mates and even his sport teacher Alan Capleman chimed in and offered to walk with Sam a portion of the way, so he didn’t have to walk the entire trek alone.


Chief Operating Officer of the Kokoda Youth Foundation Johllene Elson greeting Sam Barham at the finish line of the Kokoda Virtual Challenge

On Saturday the 16th of May, Sam set off bright and early to start his 96km walk, sending us his progress as he went. We were overwhelmed by Sam’s dedication to complete the challenge so we decided to set up a mini check point at the 37 kilometre mark at his school where his school principle, our COO Johllene plus the Founder of the Kokoda Youth Foundation Doug met him to give him an elbow bump and encourage him to keep going!

70 kilometres in, Sam definitely started to feel the effects of walking such a lengthy distance, especially as it started to rain while the sun was setting and it started to get a lot cooler. Despite the toll it was taking on his body, Sam made it to the finish line at 5:14 am on Sunday the 17th of May where we had set up some of our banners and presented him with a certificate of completion and some merchandise to express our enormous appreciation for everything he has done for the Kokoda Youth Foundation.

Sam’s act of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice is everything that the KYF embodies. He found a way to achieve his goal despite the events being cancelled, he raised over $2,000 despite their being no fundraising requirement whatsoever and did it with the help of his friends and family.

We can’t thank Sam enough for his generosity and especially for warming all of our hearts during this difficult time. Congratulations Sam, an absolutely outstanding achievement and you should be very proud, we know we are!

Click here to read about some of the other Kokoda Virtual Challenge Champions!


Watch sam's story being shared by 7News Gold Coast!

Sam Barham walking with his friend and teacher on a bike during the Kokoda Virtual Challenge

Sam during the Kokoda Virtual Challenge walking with his friend and also his Health and Physical Education teacher who joined him on her bike!

Sam Barham holding up his phone showing the Strava app which indicates he has walked 96kms under 24 hours

Sam arrives at the finish line and shows his Strava app which shows that he has successfully completed the full 96kms in under 24 hours!

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