A wounded veteran from Northumberland has spoken of his pride and delight after competing at this year’s Invictus Games.
Captain Ken Hargreaves, of Elsdon, represented the UK and finished fourth in the men’s archery novice recurve.
He also helped the UK finish in the same position in the team open recurve.
And now the 56-year-old said he would love to compete at the 2020 Paralymic Games, in Tokyo, Japan.
The Invictus Games, staged in Toronto, Canada, towards the end of last month, is a parasport event for wounded, injured or sick Armed Services personnel and their associated veterans.
Reflecting on the experience, Ken said: “The competition was strong from the other countries and everyone stepped to the mat and did their best.
“I was fortunate to finish fourth, which for me is a good place to finish. And there was plenty of banter on the line.”
Ken was serving as an Army nurse, specialising in trauma, on the front-lines in Iraq when he was seriously wounded in 2003.
He suffered spinal injury, hearing loss and organ damage, forcing him to medically retire.
Ken now uses a wheelchair and receives help from his assistance dog, Frederick, who he describes as his life and soul.
After he was injured, Ken didn’t go out of the house for the first couple of years.
He was – and still is – very happy in his own company, but his partner and carer Jennifer became worried about the effect that social isolation was having on him. Without realising it, he had become introverted.
Around a year ago, he took up archery, which not only provided him with his pass out of the house, but also his passport to the Invictus Games.
Having shown potential right from the start when he joined Ponteland Archery Club, he was given coaching by Paralympic coach Helen George, thanks to the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery programme.
Ken said: “I was a marksman in the Army and the principles of shooting with a bow and arrow are the same.
“I just happen to be reasonably good, but you never know how good you are until you enter a competition and I have been fortunate enough to win some. Archery is good because it is such an inclusive sport.”
Most importantly of all, the sport has given him a new lease of life. He said: “It has given me a purpose. Attending training sessions makes me leave the house and I now have short-term goals and future aspirations.”
Ken also feels welcomed back into the military fold. He admits that the Invictus Games took that feeling one step further – and he’s already looking forward to future training.
“I met more soldiers, more squaddies, more competitors, and I thought, maybe I can do this. Each time I went to the trials, I got more and more empowered.
“What I will be doing when I get home to Blighty is putting the novice bow to bed, taking out an Olympic recurve and practising, increasing my skills, to come back to the Invictus Games. Ultimately, my goal, if I could acquire the appropriate skills, will be to look at the 2020 Paralympics.”