Former Sergeant Mick Brennan, 34, is part of the British Disabled Ski Team and is in contention for a place in the ParalympicsGB team at the Sochi Winter Paralympics 2014 in Russia.
Mick was injured in a suicide bomb attack in November 2004 while serving in Iraq with the Royal Signals. Hurled 25 feet by the force of the explosion, Mick lost both legs above the knee and suffered a serious injury to his brain.
Mick says: “I was injured five months before the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme was introduced in April 2005. So not only was I struggling to come to terms with my life-changing injuries, I was also having to juggle serious financial concerns such as supporting my family and paying for the adaptations needed to my home. Life was very hard.
“Things took a turn for the better in 2008 when I took part in Exercise Snow Warrior, a annual military ski training exercise involving adaptive sports. Feeling the wind on my face and getting a rush of adrenaline was just amazing – that was it, I was hooked on skiing.
“I went on to take part in variety of sport programmes via the Help for Heroes funded Battle Back programme, before deciding at the start of 2009 that skiing was by far my favourite. Luckily it turned out that I was quite good at it as well so I was able to join the Combined Services ski team. I gained a place in GB development squad in 2009.
“In 2010 I was one of eight athletes who travelled to the Vancouver Paralympic Games as part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme. There I spent one week participating in a range of winter Paralympic sports, alongside Canadian wounded military personnel, gaining insight into what it’s like to be at a winter Paralympic Games.
“The following week I won a bronze medal in one of my first races in North America. I knew then that I wanted to ski for my country at the Paralympic games in 2014.
“Help for Heroes has been there every step of the way to help me not only achieve my dream but have the best quality of life possible. In 2011 the charity launched the Quick Reaction Fund and paid £27,000 for the necessary work to make my home accessible to me at last. In 2012 H4H supplied me with a new sit-ski that I will use to compete in Sochi if selected. I have continued to be involved in Help for Heroes’ funded Battle Back activities and I’m a proud member of the Combined Services Disability Ski Team.
“I’ve spent time at the Help for Heroes Tedworth House Recovery Centre using the world-class adaptive sports facilities, including the Skiplex and Swimex, and working with the centre’s lead strength and conditioning coach.
“Tedworth has also helped me mentally. Having been out of the military environment for ten years now it’s been brilliant being back amongst the guys. I’ve bumped into Neil Heritage who was also injured in the same incident as me and is also a double amputee. Being around like-minded people is helping me regain my motivation after months of injury.
“The facilities here are spot on and the Skiplex is such a fantastic piece of kit for my training. It is an indoor artificial ski slope, almost like a giant tredmill. It’s helping me rebuild my core strength, which is so important when using a mono-ski, and the mirror helps me correct my position instantly instead of watching back and analysing video footage which is the way we usually train.
“The coming months will be hugely significant for me but whatever they may hold, I know Help for Heroes is behind me every step of the way.
“Knowing the public and my sponsors are supporting me gives me the biggest boost. It makes me so grateful to know their funding is giving me the opportunity to progress with a new career. When I was first injured, I thought I would be limited to desk jobs so to be out on the slopes and now training for the Paralympics is just incredible. Thank you so much to Help for Heroes, my sponsors and to everyone who has believed in me.”