Wounded service personnel hoping to make the Wheelchair Basketball team for the upcoming Invictus Games, championed by Prince Harry, were this weekend put through their paces by the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery programme at the final training session ahead of trials and team selection in the coming weeks.
Sixteen serving personnel and veterans faced a gruelling two days of drills, fitness training and match practice in preparation for the final trials in Nottingham next weekend. Selection at the trials will be based on the talent and commitment shown by the potential competitors, so this weekend was an opportunity to exhibit individual progress and a passion for being part of the team!
Alastair Pingham, 37 from Llangollen, North Wales, who aspires to take part in Wheelchair Basketball at the Invictus Games, presented by Jaguar Land Rover, will be among 400 competitors from 14 nations taking part in the Invictus Games if he is selected. The 100-strong team British team will be selected in August by Help for Heroes and the Ministry of Defence and announced on Wednesday 13 August in London.
Alastair, served as a Marine Engineer in the Navy but was injured whilst playing hockey for them in 1998, pulling bi-lateral ligaments in both ankles. Alastair then spent nine weeks having his ankles restructured in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham. However, this consisted of drilling holes in his ankles which has since caused arthritis in both legs as the cartilage has worn away and the bones rub together, reducing his height by 6cm since 2000.
Alastair had been playing wheelchair basketball with a number of local clubs when he emailed the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery team to enquire about Invictus Games tickets. “Everything spiraled from there! They asked if I was ex-forces which I am, so suggested I try out for the team and since then I am in the gym twice a week in addition to playing at local clubs and have lost a stone so far!”. Alastair recently joined other Invictus hopefuls at a week-long training camp in Texas where he played his first professional match against the San Antonio Spurs.
Alastair is in the process of re-training as a physics teacher in Wales, and says, “I’ve gone from being medically discharged and feeling worthless to being part of something that means something after 14 years of twiddling my thumbs at home!”
Martin Colclough, Help for Heroes British Armed Forces team manager said, “Help for Heroes has been supporting individuals in sport since 2008, and we are delighted to be training and helping to select the 100 strong British Armed Forces team, which will be a team to be reckoned with! The announcement of the final Invictus Games teams on Wednesday 13th August will be an exciting day”.
Invictus is Latin for unconquered, a word that embodies the fighting spirit of wounded, injured and sick Servicemen, women and veterans, what they can achieve, post-injury. The Invictus Games, presented by Jaguar Land Rover, are a unique chance for the public to celebrate this ‘invictus spirit’ through sporting achievement, at venues made famous by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The event runs from 10 - 14 September. Tickets cost £12.85 and are on sale at www.invictusgames.org
The Invictus Games are being organised with the support and backing of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and the Ministry of Defence. They will feature nine adaptive sports at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Lee Valley Athletics Centre. Teams have been invited from 14 nations that have served alongside each other.