Why competing in the Invictus UK Trials in Sheffield will be extra special for one Army veteran

As Sheffield prepares to host the first-ever national Invictus UK Trials, the event will be all the more special for one of the 475 athletes as she prepares to compete in her home city.

Monday, 15th July 2019, 11:03 am
Caroline Buckle

Caroline Buckle, of Stocksbridge, will compete in the para powerlifting at the English Institute of Sport on Thursday, July 25 as the week-long event takes place across the city.

She served in the Army’s Adjutant General’s Corps providing support to staff and personnel on a number of operational tours including in Iraq, Germany, Cyprus and Kenya.

Caroline Buckle

But Caroline was left with life-changing injuries to her left leg and suffers from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder following an incident in 2009.

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The veteran left the forces in 2014 before getting involved in the charity Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery Programme and going on to complete the Enduroman Arch to Arc triathlon challenge from London’s Mable Arch to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

She has also just returned from the Warrior Games in Florida, United States and will join the hundreds of other British atheltes in the Invictus UK Trials, which will act as qualifying trials for next year's Invictus Games in the Netherlands.

Caroline said: “It’s extremely special to be competing in my home city. Most of my family have never seen me compete because a lot of the events are abroad.

Former defence Secretary Gavin Williamson chats with wheelchair basketball players (John Burbridge, Paul Nichol, Scott McNice and Darren Young) at the launch of the 2019 UK Invictus Games Trials which are to be held in Sheffield in July. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“I think it’s very special for Sheffield as well. It puts the city on the map with it being the first time the trials have been opened up to the public.”

The Trials will start with an opening ceremony at Sheffield Arena on Monday July 22 featuring perfomances from a star-studded line-up including Alfie Boe, classical artist Laura Wright, singer Heather Small, Suggs from Madness and Game of Thrones actor Charles Dance.

Then, around 475 athletes will compete in nine sports – archery, athletics, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby – at four venues between Tuesday, July 23 and Friday, July 26.

Caroline added: “It’s a huge event. I think, for me personally, the Invictus Games in London in 2014 – it just showed me that there is a light beyond injury and you can go and do something different that you never tyhought about before.

“Hopefully it will inspire other veterans and let them know that there is help out there.”

Alongside her sporting commitments, Caroline works part-time at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and carries out sports sessions in schools and talks to them about her time in the forces.

She said: “I go into primary and secondary schools and tell them my story and hopefully inspire them to build some resileience in the next generation.”

The sporting action will get under way with a multi-sport event at the EIS and athletics at the stadium on Tuesday, July 23.

Action continues the following day at the EIS and the city centre cycle race while on Thursday swimming will be held at Ponds Forge alongside more games at the EIS.

On Friday, an indoor rowing competition will take place.

There will also be a number of art, educational and inspirational activities across the city throughout the week.

Gary Clifton, Sheffield Council’s major events manager, said: “We are definitely ready. Branding is starting to go up across the city, including outside the Winter Garden and Central Library. “It’s an interesting event to host because it’s the first time it's happened and it’s a big one. It’s tested us but we are ready and looking forward to it.”

“The city has got a proud military history. We’ve already had the Mi Amigo and Lancaster flypasts this year and Armed Forces Day and there's a lot of civic pride in the city for the forces and quite rightly so.

“A lot of people across the city and our partners including Sheffield International Venues, Stagecoach Supertram, Sheffield Hallam University, Cutlers’ Hall and Sheffield BID have all gone out of their way to make the event happen and make it a special week for the athletes.”