As I said in my previous blog post, the spectacle of the Olympics seems to be easily overshadowed these days, and this year the Paralympic Games in particular now have to contend with an escalating global situation forming around the host nation.
With that in mind I thought it would be appropriate to share some stories, in the spirit of the Games, of tragedy turned to triumph; to which I have been fortunate enough to contribute to in a small way.
In 2007 Private Derek Derenalagi was on a routine patrol in the Helmland province of Afghanistan when the vehicle he was travelling in was hit by an IED. Private Derenalagi was pronounced dead, but as medical staff were preparing him for a body bag they found a pulse. While he had not lost his life, the injuries he had sustained necessitated the amputation of both of his legs above the knee.
The same year Senior Aircraftman Technician Jon-Allan Butterworth was serving in Iraq when he was involved in a rocket attack on Basra Air Station leaving him seriously wounded. His left arm needed to be amputated above the elbow.
In 2009 I was Master of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights, one of the leading Livery Companies in the City of London. That year I helped to set up a charity to work in association with the Battle Back organisation, operating at the time out of Headley Court, which aimed to provide grants to disabled members of the Armed Forces to assist with the purchase of specialized sporting equipment and training costs. To date we have raised over £160,000 to that end, and given numerous disabled military personnel access to sport.
The effectiveness of sport in rehabilitation from any serious injury cannot be understated. Aside from the obvious physical benefits, sport also restores a sense of purpose to people whose ability to go about their daily life or to do their job has been impaired. Simply participating can provide hope for those who may otherwise feel their life has been unequivocally altered for the worse.
That said, it need not be used only for rehabilitation; many disabled competitors are elite athletes in their own right. Battle Back supports servicemen at every level of competition; from giving access to those who are happy just to participate to competitive athletes looking to reach the podium at international level.
This currently includes a European Championship Gold Medal winner and British Shot Put record holder; and an athlete who won three silver medals in cycling at the London Paralympics who is now looking to grab the Gold at Rio. Their names, respectively, are Derek Derenalagi and Jon-Allan Butterworth.
Battle Back is going from strength to strength, with nine athletes recently benefiting from a £9,000 donation from the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights that enabled them to visit Sochi as part of a training programme designed to prepare them for Rio in 2016 or Peyongchang in 2018. Battle Back works closely with both the Wheelwrights and charities like Help for Heroes and is always happy to accept donations. To see how you can help, please visit some of the links below.