David Denholm joined the Army in 1978 as an aviation technician in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, going on to become a Regimental Duty Specialist in the Corps. Progressing to the rank of Staff Sergeant, he completed tours in Germany and Northern Ireland.
Despite an accident in which he fractured his spine, David, who hails from Southerness near Dumfries, was able to continue serving until 1991. He said: “It was whilst carrying out the duties as Workshop Sergeant Major in Warminster, supporting both the School of Infantry and Demonstration Battalion, I took the hard decision to leave service and return to civilian life.
“My condition worsened until I underwent an operation on my lower back in 1994. This proved to be the start of my current condition of spinal spondylolisthesis, cervical spondylosis and prolapsed lumber discs – all of which got worse as time went on. I returned to the Solway Coast in 1999, and after a series of tests got a diagnosis of fibromyalgia in 2013 which changed my life.
“I underwent several surgical procedures, including the removal of four toes and a knee replacement to help my balance and ease pain. Having walked into hospital, I left as a wheelchair user.”
Not prepared to sit at home, David made the decision to explore the world of disability sport. Joining the LTA Tennis Foundation British Wheelchair Development Series, he set about winning trophies all over the country.
“In 2016, I competed in National Wheelchair Tennis Series, winning in both singles and doubles events. I was selected to represent Scotland in the Dan Maskell National Team League, being a member of the winning team last October. I qualified as a LTA Level 2 tennis coach, started archery and went on to try fencing and swimming. I have curled at the British and Scottish Open and also use a recumbent handbike for fitness and endurance training.”
David is also on the regional committee of Dumfries and Galloway Disability Sport, and raises money by doing sponsored events on his handbike.
“Coming late to disability sport, my main goal is to involve more people in sport whether for fun or as a competitor, able bodied or disabled. I enjoy the development of others and, as a lecturer at Dumfries and Galloway College, I take that into my sport with me.
“Living in rural Scotland, health and wellbeing has always been at the forefront of my mind. In 2005, I formed a First Response Team in support of the Scottish Ambulance Service, raising all the funds and attending most of the call outs myself for the following seven years, supported by my wife. We were both awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to our community in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year.”
Due to his declining physical health David found that he had to give up his role in the Scottish Ambulance Service, but Help for Heroes was there to offer him the support he needed.
“I became a member of the Help for Heroes Band of Brothers network, finding some of my old self and some identity with the service life which I left in 1991 and thought was lost forever. I am proud to be a Veteran and to be associated with many Invictus athletes, having undergone trials for this year’s Games.
“Without the ongoing support of my wife and family none of this would be possible. At the age of 57, my competitive life is limited but I am keen to develop and inspire others – it is never too late to make a change to what sometimes can be a challenging life.
“Having now embraced the need to use a wheelchair in both my sport and in my daily life I have become re-energised and am determined not to allow anything to get in my way. No challenge is too big.”