So far the Paralympic Inspiration Programme has proved an absolute success, and here at Help for Heroes we’re so proud and privileged to have given eight aspiring Paralympians the opportunity to be a part of that. The feedback we have had from the Athletes has been amazing, with each one saying how valuable and inspiring the programme is, and how honoured they are to have been selected to attend.
One of these Athletes is Fusilier Andy Barlow GM (27) who is originally from Bolton, Lancashire and was awarded the George Medal for bravery. In 2006, he was left with horrific injuries after a landmine exploded blowing off his foot.
Having fought back from injury, Andy is now part of the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team (CSDST) and is supported in this by Help for Heroes. He is passionate about skiing and competes in events, including the Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G.
With aspirations of competing for his county in the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, the Paralympic Inspiration Programme is the perfect vehicle to fuel Andy’s determination and dedication to his training, and gives him an insight into an Athlete’s life both before and during a Paralympic Games.
Reflecting on his experience so far, Andy writes: “Rosa Khutor is a stunning place and is built in a bowl with the mountains as a backdrop. We all attended the opening ceremony on Friday and had an amazing time. The ceremony itself was outstanding and the Coastal Village is stunning, it was a privilege to watch all the athletes march out and a great experience to see the Torch lit. So far we have had a good insight into Curling which is a sport I’ve never really seen before. Ice Sledge Hockey is a brutal sport and a great game to watch, it was an honor to be joined by the president of there IPC Sir Philip Craven.
My best experience so far is watching the Alpine skiing and seeing history in the making. The First ever Winter Alpine Gold Medal was won by the British. Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evens hard work had paid off.
Sochi is a great place and this whole experience has been amazing Paralympics GB have been exceeded all expectations and welcomed us with open arms and recognised the athletes on the PIP as potentials.
The PIP programme has given the team greater depth of understanding what it is like to attend the games as an athlete and has inspired the team to work harder to achieve their goals. The knowledge of the staff has been second to none and all questions were answered. The support staff have been great.
Everybody has gained on this trip and with Jade picking up two medals so far she is proof that this programme works.
I would like on behalf of all the athletes and team leaders to thank Help for Heroes supporters and UPS for their generosity and support for making this happen.”
Two of the ParalympicsGB team are alumni of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme – Jade Etherington was part of the 2012 programme, and has gone on to win two medals so far in the Sochi Winter Paralympics. And Mick Brennan, a Help for Heroes supported Athlete, was part of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Inspiration Programme, and four short years later he is now competing for his county in Alpine Skiing. Clearly, the Paralympic inspiration programme works!
After an amazing first race on Sunday, Mick once again took to the slopes of Sochi today to compete in the first event of the Super Combined – the Slalom. The conditions were particularly tough today, with a bumpy course and terrible visibility.
However, being the true competitor that he is, Mick held his nerves and completed the course, coming 10th out of a field of 26. This was an amazing result, made all the more remarkable when out of the 26 competitors only 12 safely finished the course!
Mick has two more races to go, and everyone at Help for Heroes is behind him all the way! Go Mick! Go!