Matthew Richardson, a wounded ex-serviceman who has been supported by Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery Programme, has become the first-ever ParaSkeleton gold medallist at the inaugural FIBT World Cup in Utah, USA.
Matthew, 28 from Hull, a former Lance Bombardier in the British Army, was one of six athletes competing in the historic event at Park City, in Utah. He posted a combined time of 1:49.40 for the win, finishing just 0.68 seconds ahead of USA’s Eric Eierdam.
Louise Watson, Help for Heroes Sports Recovery Manager and FIBT ParaSport Representative, said: “This FIBT World Cup Race has been a fantastic start on the road to becoming included in the Paralympics. We have had so much support from so many different areas it’s amazing – everyone wants this to happen and be a success. The icing on the top is seeing Matt representing GB on the top of the podium. That Help for Heroes is leading the way in supporting participants has been pivotal in ensuring the sport has been backed right from the start.”
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 ParaSkeleton events, in the hope of the sport becomes a recognised Paralympic event in 2022.
Matthew 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 of the experience: “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. ParaSkeleton 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.”
Matthew will now go on to race in a second World Cup event in Calgary, Canada from Nov. 17-22. Joining Matthew is Corie Mapp, who is due to compete in the FIBT ParaBobsleigh Event. Corie was injured in 2010 by an Improvised Explosive Device blast in Afghanistan, where he lost both legs below the knee and suffered other severe injuries.
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. He was subsequently chosen to be part of the British Paralympic Association’s Paralympic Inspiration Programme. Through the programme, the 35-year-old was able to attend the Sochi Paralympic Games in 2014 providing him with first-hand experience of what a Winter Games is about and give him the best possible chance of success at Rio 2016 – in his other sport of sitting volleyball.
Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery for six years, and in the past year alone have put on 300 events across 50 different sports enabling over 1,800 wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in adaptive sports.
To find out more about Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery Programme, and to follow Matthew and Corie’s progress, follow @H4H_SR on Twitter.