Dave Henson, a wounded ex-serviceman who is supported by Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery programme, won a Silver medal at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, which incorporated the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final yesterday (Sunday 26th July) at the former Olympic Stadium, London.
©Roger Keller/Help for Heroes
The competition marked a significant point in Dave's journey as an International athlete, as he competed in front of a buoyed home crowd on National Paralympic Day, posting an impressive time of 26.53 in the T42 200m, finishing just behind Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead (25.79).
Dave said post-race: “It’s a massive confidence boost for me. To follow Richard’s (Whitehead) lead into this stadium is something, which a couple of years ago I could never have dreamed it. This was an eye-opener for me and first time competing here. I’m still learning but it is a good place to be at the moment.”
The day’s action featured British Paralympians including Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and Hannah Cockroft taking on the world’s best para-athletes.
Former Army Captain, Dave Henson (from Fareham, Hampshire) who served with the Royal Engineers, lost both of his legs when he stepped on an IED in February 2011 when on patrol in Helmand, Afghanistan. He subsequently spent five weeks in the care of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, a very highly skilled military medical unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, before being sent to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court. Here, Dave was up and walking at half height just eight weeks after losing his legs, and was back to full height at 14 weeks.
It was during his rehabilitation that Dave found new passion for sport, first competing in a series of open water swims with his family to raise funds for military charities, before taking up Sitting Volleyball.
In 2012 he learned to ski, returned to work assisting other injured servicemen and women and was part of an exhibition team that competed in the Warrior Games, an inter-services sports competition for the US Military branches, supported and led by Help for Heroes. Dave returned to the Warrior Games as the Captain of the British Armed Forces Team in May 2013, winning medals in the swimming pool, on the volleyball court and on the track. This first experience of track racing inspired him to take the sport further, pairing up with his sprint coach, Roger Keller, in October 2013.
©Roger Keller/Help for Heroes
In 2013 Dave started a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London, graduating with Merit in 2014. During his recent degree, Dave designed a joint recreation implant for use with through-knee amputees that can help amputees regain some of the function lost with the loss of the knee joint. He started his PhD on the same subject in April 2015.
At the same time, Dave continued with his athletics training and became involved behind the scenes of the Invictus Games – an international sports tournament championed by Prince Harry for injured servicemen and women from around the world, where he was the Captain of the British Armed Forces Team. Alongside a hugely successful British Team, Dave took home gold medals in Sitting Volleyball and in the 200m sprint on the track. Despite being new to the sport, Dave’s 2014 PB saw him comfortably into the world top ten.
Now, Dave is continuing his athletics training with his coach Roger and as part of the British Athletics Parallel Success Academy, with the support of Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery programme.
Help for Heroes are very proud to have supported Dave in his recovery, enabling him to go from strength to strength in his sport. He is now hoping to be selected for the World Championships in Doha, with the Rio Paralympic Games his ultimate goal in 2016.
Martin Colclough, Head of Sports Recovery at Help for Heroes added: “This is a really solid result for Dave at only his second international competition. To come out and perform on a stage like this, in front of a packed home crowd is phenomenal. Dave’s sheer determination and professional attitude is what stands him apart, and we look forward to continuing to support him on this exciting journey – whilst he inspires other wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women that anything is possible post injury.”
The support provided to Dave forms part of the Help for Heroes’ partnership with the British Paralympic Association & British Athletics to introduce military personnel to Paralympic Sport.
Around 150 of the world’s leading para-athletes, including multiple world and Paralympic champions took part in the event, which took place on the third day of the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games.
The event - the last major para-athletics meeting prior to October’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar - also coincided with National Paralympic Day, a sporting celebration of the Paralympic Movement, which is organised annually by the British Paralympic Association.
Click here for the full results from the 2015 IPC Grand Prix (Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games).
Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery since 2008, and in the past year alone have put on 300 events across 50 different sports enabling over 2,100 wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in adaptive sports from grassroots through to performance level.
To find out more about Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery Programme follow @H4H_SR on Twitter.