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The Invictus Games have been a highlight of the television schedules over the last month, filled with inspiring stories, incredible sportsmanship and impressive physical abilities.
Wounded, injured or sick servicemen and women from over thirteen nations descended on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to compete in the first ever Invictus Games – a multi-sport event which included events such as indoor-rowing, road cycling and wheelchair basketball.
The Games were launched by Prince Harry after he was inspired by the similar Warrior Games in the United States, where more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members or veterans compete in seven sports: archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field events and wheelchair basketball.
Learning to master a set of skis or even a snowboard isn’t easy, even for those of us who tried to conquer the slopes years ago only to fall flat on our face, or bum, time after time. But imagine having to not only learn how to conquer the equipment and the slopes, but also re-learn your way through different muscles, movements and new, adaptive equipment – that has to be a lot harder.
The group of people who competed in the Invictus Games did just that, and all are ex or even current servicemen and women – some of whom were injured in the line of duty, some injured in normal life, and others who have developed degenerative diseases, but all are permanently disabled.
Mick Brennan was widely considered to be the poster boy for the Sochi Winter Paralympics earlier this year – his life changed dramatically over a decade ago. Mick joined the army in 1998, and quickly went up the ranks due to his incredible determination and relentless ambition. “I was going places,” he said. Then, in a suicide bomb attack whilst he was serving in Iraq, Mick lost both his legs and suffered a serious brain injury, spending two weeks in a coma. “Once I woke up, I knew my army career was over” he added.
This is where the Combined Services Disabled Ski team (CSDST) comes in – the charitable organisation helps to rehabilitate people that have been injured during their military service, by using winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding using specialist adaptive equipment. The basic, and ultimate, aim of the organisation is to give disabled servicemen and women the skills, training and opportunity to make it to their national Paralympic team – just as Mick did at Sochi.
Before the Olympics, a visually-impaired Paralympic ski racer said, “Mick is such an amazing team player – it probably comes from being in the army.”
Mick is honest and candid about the accident which took his legs and caused him brain damage – “Going through rehab was a massive challenge. I was just treading water, while other people got on with their lives. I was a very angry person. I’m 100 per cent a totally different person now, my skiing improved really quickly, it [CSDST] has been the best thing that’s happened to me.”