Wounded ex-servicemen, who are supported by Help for Heroes’ Sports Recovery programme, have won six medals at the Manchester Para-cycling International over the weekend (13-15 November) at the National Cycling Centre, Manchester.
Jaco van Gass and Jon-Allan Butterworth secured a Gold, Silver and Bronze medal each over the weekend. They were part of a 16-strong Great Britain Cycling Team that finished the weekend with 12 golds, five silvers and seven bronze. The performances have also secured valuable Paralympic qualifying points ahead of Rio 2016..
Jon-Allan kicked off with a Gold in the Mixed Team Sprint on day one (Friday 13th November) where he was joined by team mates Kadeena Cox and Jody Cundy. Their time of 49.820 would have been fast enough to secure a win at this year's World Championships. Jaco van Gass finished in Bronze medal position in the same race alongside team mates Louis Rolfe and Jon Gildea.
Day two saw Jaco win Gold comfortably in the C4 3000m Individual Pursuit after catching Japan’s Ishll Masashi on Saturday (14th November). He was congratulated in person by HRH Prince Harry, who stopped by to wish the former soldier well.
Speaking after his victory, Jaco said: “It was very nice to see Prince Harry. I texted him earlier in the week, mentioned that there was the event this weekend and if he’s in Manchester to come say hello. “It just so happened that he was and he came to say hello and it just shows you what a great lad he is. There’s no need for him to come but he took five minutes out of his day to come and say hello, watch a bit of cycling and then shoot off again. (I’m) really really pleased and thankful that he came.”
Jaco followed his win with a Silver on the final day (Sunday 15 November) in the Scratch, whilst Jon-Allan finished in Bronze medal position in the same race. He went on to win Silver in the C4-5 1km Time Trial.
Jon-Allan said after the event: “I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend. It’s great to be back riding for Great Britain. With ten months to go until Rio I am in a good position and can build on my current form. That was a positive performance, I’m very happy.”
The support provided to Jaco and Jon-Allan forms part of the Help for Heroes’ partnership with the British Paralympic Association & British Cycling to introduce military personnel to Paralympic Sport, and on their road to Rio and beyond.
Former Private Jaco Van Gass was a member of the British Armed Forces Parachute Regiment where during his second tour of Afghanistan he was severely wounded. Jaco and his platoon were engaged by enemy Forces and after an intense 45 minute fire fight, Jaco was hit by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). The injuries he sustained included the loss of his left arm at the elbow, a collapsed left lung, shrapnel wounds to his left side, punctured internal organs, blast wounds to upper thigh, a broken tibia and a fractured knee. After 11 operations and intense rehab, Jaco has shown that his injuries haven’t held him back. With Help for Heroes’ support Jaco has had the opportunity to try various sports including skeleton, and skiing before finding cycling, a sport he has now taken to a competitive level.
Former Senior Aircraftsman Jon-Allan Butterworth was caught in a rocket attack on Basra Air Station, Iraq in August 2007. He was operated on by doctors in a battlefield hospital who carried out an above the elbow amputation of his left arm. In October 2007, while he was still recovering at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court in Surrey, Jon-Allan attended a Paralympics GB talent ID day in Loughborough. It was here that he first made contact with British Cycling coaches. In May 2008 he became involved with the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride, a 350 mile cycling challenge around the battlefields of northern France, to raise funds to benefit other injured servicemen and women. This sparked his interest in cycling. In August 2008, with support from Help for Heroes, Jon-Allan attended a Paralympic sports camp in San Diego. Already identified as particularly talented at a Paralympic talent ID day in the UK, the British Cycling team decided to put him through his paces in the Velodrome. Jon-Allan’s talent for cycling saw him represent his country at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in Track and Road Cycling where he won an incredible three silver medals. Help for Heroes is delighted to have been able to support Jon-Allan’s rise to success which includes funding specific technical equipment.
Jayne Kavanagh, Performance Pathway Manager at Help for Heroes said: “We’re extremely proud of both Jaco and Jon-Allan's performance over the weekend, this was a significant competition to secure vital qualifying points for the Paralympics in Rio in 2016. Both are a fantastic example of what wounded, injured and sick service men and women can do post injury, by using the power of adaptive sport throughout their recovery.”
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.