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Stephen Ashvroft

Categories: Invictus Games 2020 Athletes

Former Corporal Stephen Ashcroft is balancing his Invictus Games journey with completing his PhD in crop genetics.

The RAF veteran was heavily involved in both rugby union and rugby league before he was injured in 2010 by an IED in Afghanistan. He spent six months wheelchair-bound before learning to stand again and a further three years to regrow a section of tibia that was lost in the blast. The slow recovery and altered physiology have left him in chronic pain, affecting both his confidence and his motivation.

“I turned my back on exercise, simply focussing on what I ‘could not’ do. I often wear a brave face, but the truth is, I still miss the person I once was.”

Fortunately, a friend suggested he attend an Invictus Games training camp at Loughborough and he hasn’t looked back. “This reignited a relentlessness that was ever-present in my military career and I made a personal commitment to reach my physical potential. Since then, I am unrecognisable in my optimism, and my capacity for exercise has soared.”

Stephen now trains five times per week and concentrating on functional strength has had a major impact on his pain, mobility and general self-confidence.

“As a soldier, it was commonplace for friends and family to consider me as strong and resolute, willing to tackle anything head on, without question. I possessed a conviction that I took into battle, knowing that I was superior to my enemies. However, after my injuries, this confidence was lost. Since being involved in Invictus though, my world has changed significantly. A flame of motivation has been lit which forces me to challenge myself physically, in ways that I thought had long since passed. I now train with purpose and a vigour reminiscent of my former self which has impacted on my entire lifestyle.

“I have the confidence to push my body, without looking for excuses based on my injuries and am driven to reach my newfound potential. I am ashamed of the attitude I adopted towards my health since 2010 and endeavour to discover my limits with renewed positivity. I now feel empowered by my capacity rather than restricted by my limitations.”

During the pandemic Stephen adapted his training as much as possible, but without weights at home this was difficult. “Let’s just say I moved from the middleweight to heavyweight powerlifting category!

“I took up cycling to maintain fitness and eventually managed to acquire some equipment from an Invictus teammate where I followed the Invictus powerlifting program as much as possible. When the gyms reopened, I decided to hit the training hard again and continue to receive personal training at Origin Gym in Liverpool where the guys have been amazing helping me get back up to speed."