After leaving school in 1999 I made the brave decision to serve my Queen and country by applying to join the Parachute Regiment, the Airborne Infantry of the British Army. Because of my determination to excel when applying for the army I made sure I was as fit as I could be and frequently ran for Gloucestershire in cross country events across the UK.
I was about to begin my P Company training, when I had my motorcycle accident that left me hospitalised for over four months. After waking up in a hospital bed at just sixteen years old the reality of exactly what had happened to me set in, I thought both my life and career were over.
The next couple of months were very hard for me as I didn’t lose my leg straight away, Bristol Royal Infirmary did everything they could to save it and for a short time they managed to do so. However due continual complications, in December 2005 I made the extremely difficult decision to have my leg amputated.
This was probably the hardest period of time for me I was struggling with my decision and I wanted to join our troops so much, I had my heart set on it, especially with my brother in Iraq at the time. My mother was such a support and comfort to me and explained that sometimes things in life happen for a reason.
After this difficult period, I knew there was only one way to go, I decided that the only way my situation would change was if I made it happen, nobody was going to be able do it for me. I made the decision that my leg was not going to be my disability but in fact my ability to achieve something incredible and something that would change my life forever. I knew there would be obstacles and I knew that I would have to learn to get over them. The first being how to learn to walk with my new prosthetic leg, even the simplest of everyday day tasks I would have to learn again.
In 2007 I applied for a Disabled Flying Scholarship and was lucky enough to be picked from thousands of applicants and was rewarded with 35 hours of flight training at Goodwood aerodrome in West Sussex. Eventually I passed my seven ground school exams and flight training and walked away with my pilot’s license. I felt I had proved to myself that I could achieve something incredible when I put my heart and soul into it, this was the start of my new journey.
I was asked to participate in a Dawn till Dusk challenge which involved flying with a formation of Aircraft by flying scholarships for the disabled. We flew from Cambridge down to Guernsey and around the UK touching down on every island and we raised a grand total of £38,000 for the charity.
I loved flying and it gave me a new sense of purpose, but by 2009 I was really missing physical training and wanted to get fit again. I thought I would start to run again, which I presumed would be relatively easy with the right kit. However, after speaking to the disablement services at Southmead Hospital I realised that it was not going to be as simple as I first thought.
Disappointed but not disheartened I went back to the Lydney Boxing Club that I had attended as a kid and managed to become a coach and help others get fit. However, deep down I still had a burning desire to run and watching the 2012 Paralympics was the pinnacle in my career as Paralympic athlete. Watching these inspirational athletes ignited a flame in my heart that for years had just been a small ember. This flame grew after speaking to a Paralympic athlete who ran in the Beijing games, to where it burns brightly today.
With a fresh resolve I started looking into getting a blade, so I could run again and my employer, Airbus UK incredibly part funded the cost of this new leg as it is not available on the NHS and we managed to fund raise the rest, raising a total of £8000. Getting the blade changed my life dramatically and I competed in and won many events including Stoke Mandeville stadium and I registered for England Athletics.
Not content with running alone, and a feeling that I could still achieve more, I decided to try my hand at Triathlon, its multi-faceted disciplines were extremely appealing to me and even though my running was good I had a long way to go with my swimming and bike, it felt like this was the challenge I had been looking for.
I am now part of the Great Britain World Class Performance Program competing for Great Britain all over the world. I have attained a few titles in my short career and am proud to be the British Elite Champion for Paraduathlon, British Champion for Triathlon and the current European and World champion and Paralympic Gold Medallist in Rio 2016. I have been awarded the Sports Person of the Year in the Pride of the Forest awards and disabled sports performer of the year in the Bristol Sports Awards.