Wounded ex-servicemen, who are supported by Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery programme, have enjoyed success at the first Para-skeleton and Para-bobsleigh World Cup event of the season at the Canada Olympic Park, Calgary.
Matthew Richardson won Gold in the Para-skeleton race in a time of 2.05.84, which was 2.79 seconds ahead of close rival Eric Eierdam of the USA in second place (2.08.63) and Canada’s Kelsey Rice in third (2.11.37).
Matthew (from Hull, Yorkshire) took to the ice in the second-ever World Cup series. He became the first Para-skeleton Gold medallist at the inaugural World Cup in Utah, USA in November (2014), and a Silver medallist at the final race in St Moritz in January this year (2015).
A former Lance Bombardier in the British Army, Matthew was struck by a landmine on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2008. Both of his feet were shattered by the blast and as a result he had to have reconstructive surgery to his left foot. He was medically discharged from the Royal Artillery and now trains and participates in Para-skeleton events, in the hope that the sport becomes a recognised Paralympic event in 2022. He has attended a series of training camps as part of the Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery Programme, and was one of the very first residents at Help for Heroes’ Recovery Centre, Tedworth House, in Wiltshire in 2011.
Matthew said: “Since being injured, I’ve been trying to find a sport that has given me the same buzz that serving in the Army gave me. Help for Heroes gave me the opportunity to try different sports and find the one that gives me the adrenaline rush I’d been missing. Para-skeleton is awesome! It’s quick, technical and a real challenge. I love the adrenaline rush it gives me, but best of all, it gives me the buzz of competing again, and now that we’re holding official world cup races, the buzz of competition will only grow.”
Corie Mapp finished sixth in the Para-bobsleigh event. He said after the race: "6th place finish for the first race after a bad second run. Gave it 100% so I can leave with my head held high."
Corie (from Swindon, Wiltshire) took to the ice in the second-ever World Cup series, following the inaugural competition last year in which he made history by winning the first-ever Para-bobsleigh World Cup Gold medal in Igls, Austria in January (2015) and finishing second in the series.
A former Lance Corporal, Corie lost both legs when his military vehicle ran over an explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010. The explosion resulted in his left leg being completely severed, while his right leg later had to be amputated. He also had severe injuries to his left hand, a collapsed lung and a broken jaw - the blast further saw his lower lip almost completely torn off. He was extracted and then flown by helicopter to Camp Bastion Medical Hospital, where the right leg amputation took place.
Still unconscious, Corie was later flown to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, where he remained in an induced coma for eight days while undergoing further surgery, including facial reconstruction. But within two weeks he was walking on prosthetic limbs, and a long period of rehabilitation was undertaken. Post injury, and with the support of Help for Heroes, Corie soon discovered the restorative nature of sport. In 2013 Help for Heroes enabled Corie to compete for the UK in America’s Warrior Games, and in 2014 the inaugural Invictus Games.
Louise Watson, Help for Heroes Sports Recovery Manager and IBSF Para-sport Representative, said: "It's fantastic to see how much our sport is progressing; we have a team of fantastic athletes who are dedicating their time to compete and show case such a technical, fast and enjoyable sport.”
The British competitors have been supported by the BBSA (British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association), the organisation at the forefront of the development of both sports.
Both Matthew and Corie will now head to Park City, Utah for the second and third races of the season (21 & 22 November).
Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery since 2008, and in the past year alone have put on 300 events across 50 different sports enabling over 2,100 wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in adaptive sports from grassroots through to performance level.
To find out more about Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery Programme follow @H4H_SR on Twitter.