“When I play sport I leave all my worries at the door and feel like myself again; not just a person with an injury”.
Former Royal Logistics Corps supplier, Joe Preston, is just one of 20 wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans who have been chosen to represent the UK at this year’s Warrior Games.
The Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games takes place from June 21-30 in Tampa Bay, Florida. Approximately 400 competitors representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), United Kingdom Armed Forces, Canadian Forces and the Australian Defence Force will participate in the competition.
Team UK, which is supported and delivered by Help for Heroes, will take part in fourteen adaptive sports: archery, cycling, time-trial cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, ﬁeld, wheelchair basketball, indoor rowing, powerlifting, golf, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby. The latter three sports for the ﬁrst time in Warrior Games history.
Joe, who was born in and still lives in Rugby, is competing in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and sitting volleyball
“Following a leg injury playing rugby, which left me with chronic pain and significant discomfort every day, I was heartbroken to be told I would never be able to play rugby again. However, finding wheelchair basketball has reduced my anxiety and depression. It’s given me a purpose again. I found people that understood what it was like living with an injury and I felt at home. Competing in the Warrior Games will help build my confidence and self-esteem. I’m really grateful that Help for Heroes have funded my basketball wheelchair as its enabling me to do much more training”.
This year not only have three former competitors taken coaching qualifications so that they can support the Warrior Games Team but the kit has been designed by Help for Heroes beneficiaries.
Jaco van Gass was serving in the Parachute Regiment when he suffered life-changing injuries; a blast from a Rocket Propelled Grenade resulted in shrapnel wounds, blast wounds to his left leg and losing his left arm. Andy Perrin, a former Invictus Games gold medallist, served in the Royals Signals for 12 years before being medically discharged. The pair have worked together in order to design the kit, which Team UK will proudly be wearing in Florida: https://shop.helpforheroes.org.uk/collections/challenge-yourself-sports-collection
Martin Colclough, Head of Sports Recovery at Help for Heroes, said: “We know how important sport or physical activity can be in an individual’s recovery. Not only does it help physically but it can provide huge mental health benefits too including improving self-confidence and self-esteem. The Warrior Games provides our veterans with the opportunity to be part of a team again, something the military often miss after suffering a life-changing injury or illness. It’s great that this year we have 3 former competitors who have since taken coaching qualifications to enable them to support their peers in their recovery journey. Their insight will be so valuable for the competitors this year”.
He continued: “The Warrior Games team represents just 20 of our wounded heroes; there are thousands more out there that need our support as they rebuild their lives. With seven people a day being medically discharged from the Armed Forces the need is growing. We’d invite anyone who wants to try something new as part of their recovery to get in touch with Help for Heroes. It’s not just about competing in sports at an elite level. Through our local Recovery Centres we can offer grassroots activities, such as walking football, and access to nutrition, sleep hygiene and physical activity advice.”
The US Warrior Games is about giving wounded, injured and sick serving and veteran personnel the chance to take part in sport, alongside their peers, to show themselves, and the rest of the world, that they can. This is about ability, not disability. Every athlete at the Warrior Games has been empowered to compete.
Help for Heroes are proud to be leaders in adaptive sport; supporting over 500 of our wounded to be part of Team UK this summer for the Warrior Games, the Invictus UK Trials in Sheffield and Scotland’s Mey Games.
If you are serving or veteran wounded, injured or sick and in need of support visit Help for Heroes’ Get Support pages.