Warrior Games medalist Laura Knowles hasn't stopped smiling since she returned from Chicago.
Laura returned not just with two silver medals - one for shot put and one from the swimming team relay - but with a confidence that simply didn’t exist when she climbed onto the minibus at the start of her journey to the States two weeks earlier.
Everyone who has spoken to Laura since her return has remarked on how much the experience - which included being selected to carry the torch for the UK team - has benefited the former member of the Welsh Guards Band. And Laura agrees: “It’s done so much for me. I have grown in confidence and made so many new friends. It feels like I have a new outlook on life.
“The whole experience was amazing but if I had to pick a favourite moment it would be being chosen to be the UK torch bearer because it showed me what the team thought of me – in a very positive way!”
Laura, who lives in Birkenhead, has been diagnosed with bipolar II and borderline personality disorder and also has bulimia. The talented clarinetist and saxophonist has not picked up an instrument since being medically discharged and, instead, has been focusing on sport.
Discovering its benefits has come as a complete surprise to someone who, as a child growing up in Flintshire, was overweight and did all she could to avoid sport.
Her desire to join the Army gave her the incentive to lose weight – six stone in fact! – and she did enough exercise while serving to keep her weight down. It was only once medically-discharged and having been given a place in last year’s Invictus Games team, that Laura realised the importance of sport in recovery.
“I look back to when I was a kid when I never thought I would lose weight, never mind get fit, and I can’t believe where I am today! The Invictus and Warrior Games have kept my head high above water and given me the motivation – which I lost for quite a while - to carry on.
“I know there will be dips in my mental health but hopefully my memories of the Warrior Games and looking at the medals will help pull me up again.
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Thanks to all her positive experiences of the Warrior Games, Laura has already begun training for the 2018 Invictus Games.
“Now it’s time to smash it for next year!” she said.