Scottish born Micky Yule’s job was a risky one. As a Staff Sergeant with the Royal Engineers, he led patrol units in the search for IEDs in Afghanistan. Unfortunately for Micky, in July 2010, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is his story from injury to being selected to compete at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
"IEDs were the biggest threat in Afghanistan and 2010 was a particularly bad year for casualties. The lads found it really tough to deal with, but we had no choice other than to carry on with our jobs as normal.
"It was just another patrol, but this time I was the unlucky one. When I stood on the pressure plate I detonated the explosive that tore my left leg off instantly, and left my right in a very bad shape. My first concern was to get the guys to stop the bleeding. I’d seen friends bleed out and knew that I didn’t have long. They did a fantastic job, doing everything we had practiced so many times, and gave me enough time to be casevaced back to Bastion for the emergency operations that saved my life, including the amputation of my right leg.
"The biggest challenge I’ve faced since being injured has been trying to come to terms with the restrictions on what I can do now, but this has gotten easier with time. When I was first injured, I went from being a big tough squaddie to someone who needed help to do everything in a flash. Not only had I lost my legs, but I’d also broken both of my arms and I felt good for nothing – more of a nuisance than anything.
"After a few months at Headley Court, I took part in a talent ID day that was looking for potential GB Paralympians. I tried out for a few sports but was really holding out for the powerlifting. I’m a bit of a caveman – not very good at skilful games, but can lift heavy weight! I was a powerlifter in the army before being injured and thought I’d take selection for the Paralympics in my stride.
"When I didn’t make the cut, I was surprised. My attitude towards Paralympic sport before being injured was that if I was in a wheelchair, I’d be better than them. In reality, I didn’t get selected because I wasn’t good enough. I was shocked at how much these guys were lifting. Powerlifting is the only sport in which, if you compared a Paralympian to an Olympian who weighed the same, the Paralympian would come out on top.
"I was annoyed, but I knew that I was still on medication and not feeling 100%. The rejection was all I needed to give me a kick up the bum and to get in shape. I knew I had it in me, so I put in a bit of sneaky training at home and went to a Scottish ID day off my own back. I was selected for the Commonwealth Games.
"Selection forced me to bring my discharge date forward. I needed to give everything to training and couldn’t do it while the army were still employing me. At first my resettlement officer was keen for me to pursue other careers – I had gained decent qualifications in the army and could probably have found a good job on Civvie Street. Convincing him that I wanted to make money out of lifting weights was a hard sell, but he eventually came around to the idea after watching me train.
"I was determined to put in a good performance at the Games, and pushed myself to the limit day in, day out. I pushed myself so hard, in fact, that I tore a pec just five weeks before the competition. I called my coach after it happened and he thought I was joking. After five weeks of physio and no training, I entered the Games but only managed a few lifts. I ended up coming fourth, but would have medalled easily had I been at full strength – the silver medallist lifted below my Personal Best. I’ve got a massive itch to scratch and can’t wait for 2018, but it’s Rio 2016 that’s my biggest goal.
"Help for Heroes has supported me from day one. Civvie gyms don’t have the weights I need, or the adapted benches to lift them on, so without the grant from H4H for the right equipment, I wouldn’t be able to set myself such high targets. It’s not just the grant though - Tedworth House has one of the best gyms in the country, and coming down here for training sessions really boosts morale. Taken simply as a training facility, it’s world class, but when you add everything else that goes on here into the mix, it becomes something really special.
"I hope that the public continue to support Help for Heroes because we’re still recovering. I’ve been injured for five years, and although I may be in great physical shape, I still have a long way to go. The Afghan war will leave a legacy – thousands of guys will suffer throughout their lives, some with physical injuries, others with PTSD or depression. They won’t recover overnight and will always need help.
"I’m very self-motivated because I have to be. You can be offered all the support in the world, but if you don’t take responsibility for yourself, you’re not going to improve. I’ve got a big Brazilian flag and two Scottish flags over my weight bench in my gym at home. They’re the last things I see before I lift. I want a perfect day at the Paralympics in 2016 – if that happens, if all the stars align, I’ll smash it."