Peterborough Phantoms player Jon Le Galloudec swapped his sledge for swimming trunks a couple of weeks ago when he joined more than 100 other UK Armed Forces personnel at the first ever Invictus Games.
Wounded in Iraq 7 years ago when he was shot in the spine by a sniper, Jon was told by doctors that he wouldn’t walk again. Not willing to accept that as an option, he pushed himself every day, until he was defying expectations.
It was at Stoke Mandeville that I was told I would never walk again, however, me being me, I stubbornly ignored them, and two months after I was shot I took my first wobbly steps. The first time I walked I was in tears, my mum was in tears, even the nurses were in tears – I just didn’t think it would ever happen for me. I was told that I would always be in a wheelchair so walking out of the hospital, three months later, and proving them wrong, was one of the best days of my life.
Today, with the help of pioneering leg splints from a company called Ottobock, he is not only walking, but has taken up running again. The splints, which are funded by Help for Heroes, work by storing energy in the carbon fibre frame. This energy is then returned as the user steps, acting like a spring to support the movement.
Last month, Jon added another achievement to his ever-growing list – competing in the first ever Invictus Games in London. The brainchild of HRH Prince Harry, the Games were modelled on the US Warrior Games after he’d visited them in Colorado in 2013. Bringing wounded, injured and sick service personnel together in a huge sporting event, it was the type of challenge that Jon thrives on. Having already won a bronze medal at the Warrior Games representing the British Armed Forces team, he started training for the selection trials.
Unfortunately, the lingering issues related to his disability meant that Jon was in a lot of pain during his training, including developing a chest infection that left him – literally – falling onto Prince Harry’s lap at one of the pre-Invictus events. Setting him back with his training, Jon was concerned that he hadn’t made the team, but in mid-August the final 130-strong British Armed Forces Team was announced, and he was thrilled to be included in that number.
Taking part in 4 swimming races, Jon knew it was going to be hard to win, but that wasn’t the main reason for wanting to take part.
It may not have been about the winning for Jon, but when he stood on the podium to receive the first of his two bronze medals, it was still a pretty amazing moment. On top of that, and potentially more importantly, he managed to beat his own personal best times in all four races. He also proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that he wasn’t going to let the events of June 2007 defeat him.
The Invictus Games is all about the taking part, unlike the Paralympics, which is about winning and being the best in the world. You see, sometimes the bravest and hardest thing is actually stepping up to that start line to compete. Especially when you think about what each and every competitor will have overcome simply to get to that point.