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A former combat medic, from Cardiff, who was medically discharged in 2018, secured a silver medal in the women’s section of England GB Disabled Strongman – and then returned to what she describes as her ‘perfect job’ with the Charity …

Gemma Kemble-Stephenson, 41, is one of our community sports officers, helping veterans to use sport as a tool for recovery; but, in her spare time, she’s now, officially, the country’s second strongest disabled woman.

Having joined the Army Medical Corps in 1999, aged just 17, she suffered multiple injuries during her service and was medically discharged after 19 years of service.

She said: “I’m now a wheelchair user. My injuries are not going to get better. But a big part of my recovery was finding adaptive sports. The Help for Heroes sports recovery programme got me on the road to recovery. I was quite sporty before my injuries, but this really got me centred.”

It's the payback and the opportunity to support others. I've been on that side and it's not very nice ...

Gemma Kemble-Stephenson

Community Sports Officer


She was approached by another Help for Heroes beneficiary and two-time Invictus Games competitor, Martin Tye, to participate in GB Disabled Strongman – described as ‘a new era for disabled sports’.

Kemble-Stephenson said: “Both sexes participate under the banner of Disabled Strongman – we're not precious about it. The competition has numerous categories, both standard and seated, suitable for visually impaired, limb deficient, amputees, and neurological issues, such as cerebral palsy and MS. We try to adapt around the person to achieve the best they can. It’s competitive but very supportive.”

This year’s English event took place, for the first time, at the FIT XPO in Manchester, where competitors and organisers were delighted to have a platform to showcase the sport.

The two-day event saw three competitions on the first day – giant dumbbell, axe-hold, and sandbag to shoulder – and two on the second day: axle press max lift and the atlas stones, Kemble-Stephenson’s favourite.

“It’s always a good watch. You get to hug a big ball of concrete; I tell my husband, Martin – who is also my coach – that the stone I'm picking up weighs more than him, so if he doesn't behave and do the dishes I'll throw him towards the sink,” she laughed.

Weightlifter in a wheelchair prepares to lift
Gemma prepares to lift on her way to a silver medal - pic courtesy Miley Stevens


Her second place in the overall competition is another feather in her proverbial cap, alongside the fact she is already the world record holder for the deadlift, at 245kg – almost the weight of a pygmy hippopotamus. But it was back to work for her the following day in her role as community sports officer, with special emphasis on adaptive sport.

She explained: “I started with Help for Heroes in January and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s my perfect job. When you go through medical discharge you tend to go for a Civvy Street job doing what you were doing before. But Civvy St doesn't have a combat medic role; most certainly not a combat-medic-type role you can do from a wheelchair.

“When I was asked 'what would be your perfect job?' I said working within sports and working with veterans were my two ideals – that's what I wanted to do; so, this is my perfect job. I don't think a lot of people ever get to say that.

“It's the payback and the opportunity to support others. I've been on that side and it's not very nice,” she said, emotionally … “but these are grateful tears, not tears of sadness!”

Also at the GB Disability Strongman event, Darren Sach, 46, from Chelmsford, who has also been supported by the Charity, lifted 200kg to win both the Open and Masters powerlifting categories.

The GB Disability Strongman website has a powerful and inspirational banner message. It reads: “Disability doesn’t define us. We don’t give in or give up. We get up, work hard and become stronger. We beat what tried to hurt us and hold us back.”

And that certainly sums up Gemma Kemble-Stephenson’s approach to life.