Invictus UK Trials Sheffield: Athletes are a TRUE inspiration as games get underway

Inspirational, courageous, brave – all overused words.

Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 13:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 15:36 pm

You hear or read them everyday and their ubiquity has led to them losing their true meaning.

And while they can be hard to define anyone failing to understand the words can see the ultimate definition for themselves at venues across Sheffield this week as the city plays host to the first-ever Invictus UK Trials.

Woodbourn Road Athletics Stadium was left unloved less than a decade ago as weeds grew through the track.

Invictus Games Athletics at Woodbourne Road in Sheffield 400metres womens heats

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It reopened as Sheffield Hallam University City Athletics Stadium following a £325,000 revamp having been taken over by the university in 2013 as a replacement for Don Valley Stadium.

And on Tuesday, the venue was brought back to life and played host to its most important athletics competition to date.

Hundreds of wounded or injured former servicemen and women took part in a series of track and field events – all with their own unimaginable stories of how they came about their injuries.

But just as much as they were all united by their injuries, they also shared an incredible resilience and demonstrated true bravery.

Standing on the sidelines, watching on in the baking sunshine was Dave Watson. Dave won three medals at the Invictus Games in Toronto in 2017 and two in Australia in 2018.

This is the first year he has not competed himself and he is visibly eager as he watches the shotput competiton, in which he won a bronze medal in 2017.

He said: “It’s amazing what getting involved in sport does. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got injured and when I started competing, I was like a different man – it opens doors for you.”

The former Scots Guard, who used to stand guard at Buckingham Palace makes a point of telling me how he has danced with the Queen and met all the Royal Family.

But tragedy struck on May 27, 2010 when he stood on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

Dave, of Preston, said: “I heard the click, I was conscious through it all and the guys dragged me out and said: ‘Don’t look down’. I lost both my legs and my right arm was dangling off.”

Having found comfort and focus from competing as part of the Invictus programme, he is volunteering this year as a Team UK Ambassador, supporting competing athletes.

He added: “Helping others helps me as well. To pass on my knowledge to other guys and see what a difference it makes to them is great.”

The small stand at the Attercliffe site was packed – made up of athletes’ friends, relatives and spectators – as they watched athletes compete in track races and field events.

James Stride, from Northampton, had just competed in the 100m race. The former Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer unfortunately pulled his hamstring in the race and was left in excruciating pain but, in true veteran style, still completed the race.

He said: “It’s the community feel you get from it. Since I got involved in Invictus, it’s been amazing to be back among the lads again.

“You just feel like you are part of something again.”

James now runs a gym with his friend Shaun Franklin, who said he was like a ‘different man’ since signing up to the programme Invictus.

Shaun said: “It's given him an experience he has not had before. I think having a different focus to training it’s made him focus on himself a lot more.

“In our jobs we spend a lot of time motivating other people and don’t necessarily look after ourselves.”

In the stands, taking in the atmosphere is James Hamilton. James, from the Scottish Borders, was injured in service with the Royal Logistic Corps in 2005.

He will compete in the archery and indoor rowing later this week.

James added: “Invictus inspires you, when you’re having a bad day it sort of picks you up because you’re able to share experiences.

“You feel like you are back part of something.”

The trios stories are just a tiny example of the true bravery and courage the 475 athletes competing in the city this week have shown.

Willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for your country – now that truly is inspirational.

INVICTUS UK TRIALS FULL SCHEDULE

Tuesday, July 23

9am until 6pm – Athletics Finals, Sheffield Hallam Athletics Stadium

9am until 5pm – Wheelchair Rugby Pools, English Institute of Sport Netball Centre

10am until 6pm – Photographic exhibition

Sheffield City Hall – Rupert Frere / Wendy Faux

Winter Garden – Amanda Searle

2pm until 3pm – Song Writing Workshop with Bethzienna Williams, EIS Supporter Service

7.30pm until 10pm – Wheelchair Rugby Finals, EIS Indoor Athletics Centre

7.30pm until 10pm – Soldier On production, Oval Hall, Sheffield City Hall

Wednesday, July 24

9am until 3pm – Cycling Time Trial Finals, Sheffield city centre

9am until 6pm – Archery Finals, EIS Indoor Athletics Centre

9am until 5pm – Sitting Volleyball Pools, EIS Netball Centre

10am until noon – Theatre workshop, Oval Hall, Sheffield City Hall

10am until 2pm – CTP Job Fair, The Ballroom, Sheffield City Hall

Pre-registration is required visit http://bit.ly/CTPJOBFAIR2019

10am until 6pm – Photographic exhibition

Sheffield City Hall – Rupert Frere / Wendy Faux

Winter Garden – Amanda Searle

10am until 6pm – Art in the Aftermath exhibition presented by Style for Soldiers, Barkers Pool

2pm until 3pm – Never Such Innocence Awards Ceremony, Oval Hall, Sheffield City Hall

4pm until 5pm – Sir Michael Morpurgo in converstaion with Ade Adepitan, Oval Hall, Sheffield City Hall

7.30pm until 10pm – Sitting Volleyball Finals

7.30pm until 10pm – Soldier On production, Oval Hall, Sheffield City Hall

Thursday, July 25

9am until 3pm - Powerlifting Finals, EISS Indoor Athletics Centre

9am until 5pm – Wheelchair Basketball Pools, EISS Netball Centre

10am until 4pm – Poppy Quest, Sheffield city centre - meeting at Winter Garden,

9am until 5pm – Military Village, Devonshire Green

10am until 6pm – Photographic exhibition

Sheffield City Hall – Rupert Frere / Wendy Faux

Winter Garden – Amanda Searle

10am until 6pm – Art in the Aftermath exhibition presented by Style for Soldiers, Barkers Pool

Noon until 7pm – Swimming Finals, Ponds Forge Pool

7.30pm until 10pm – Wheelchair Basketball Finals, EISS Indoor Athletics Centre

Friday, July 26

9am until 3pm – Indoor Rowing Finals, EIS Indoor Athletics Centre

10am until noon – Dance Workshop, The Ballroom, Sheffield City Hall

10am until 6pm – Photographic exhibition

Sheffield City Hall – Rupert Frere / Wendy Faux

Winter Garden – Amanda Searle

10am until 6pm – Art in the Aftermath exhibition presented by Style for Soldiers, Barkers Pool