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Search for Paralympic stars at Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison
INSPIRATIONAL injured veterans and service personnel have been put through their paces to see if they have the potential to become Paralympic athletes. Ashley Barnard attended an assessment session at Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison to meet the men and women who could be the next stars of Rio 2016.
A GROUP of around 20 veterans and current personnel took part in the Front Line to Start Line tests – a talent identification process to find raw talent that can be nurtured by top Paralympic coaches to either go all the way to the top or develop their own coaching skills to help others.
The event, run by Help For Heroes and the British Paralympic Association, aims to introduce military personnel and veterans into Paralympic sport, and today (Thursday, Oct 3) at the newly-opened centre participants were assessed in power, strength, endurance and technical ability.
Tests included weight-lifting, bikes and hand bike speed, rowing and canoe machine ability and jumping.
Programme lead Jayne Kavanagh, from BPA, said: “We aim to encourage more injured service personnel and veterans to take up sport at all levels.
“Through Front Line to Start Line we aim to educate participants about the benefit of sport; not only the physical but the social and psychological benefits too.”
The first test for the participants was a bench press power lift, and Phoenix House strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Airey said he was looking out for people who could lift their own body weight.
To get an idea of how tough that was I was able to give it a go myself, and my best lift was 34kg – respectable for someone who has never lifted more than a 5kg bar bell – but not good enough at just half my body weight.
Someone who was hoping to do well in the weight lifting tests was Mark Turnbull, 38, a veteran of the Royal Engineers, who has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since 2008 when he witnessed a friend being killed by an improvised explosive device.
He said: “I have progressed in my recovery, but there is still a way to go and sport has really helped me. I find that when I am having a bad time it helps me through it.”
Tony Boyd, 52, originally from Peterlee but now living in Catterick, convinced surgeons to remove his lower right leg after became almost useless after a climbing accident in Kenya.
He said: “I was in the Army Physical Training Corps so would do a lot of coaching and exercise.
“I fell 180 feet in Kenya when helping someone else in difficulty and broke my back, fractured my skull and broke both of my legs.
“I had two ankle fusion operations but both failed and eventually I'd had enough. After a lot of talks with doctors they understood that with my physiotherapy work I knew what I was talking about and that it was an educated decision. It has given me a new lease of life.”
Mikey Hall, a veteran formerly of the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards, Welsh Cavalry, is hoping to shine in archery testing later in the year but is also a keen triathlete and iron man contestant.
He uses a wheelchair after falling during a training exercise near Catterick Garrison and breaking his neck and back in numerous places in 2000.
He said: “ I used to teach veterans archery and am part of an archery club so it would be great to be able to take it further.
“Taking part in triathlons and iron man competitions is good fun and helps me mentally and physically.”
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