Ex-forces athletes prepare to take centre stage

Although the end of the Olympics may have left us feeling a bit flat, the Paralympics kicks off in just a few week’s time, and is sure to reignite the country’s patriotic spirit. Armed Forces members will have a few more reasons to watch, as three ex-forces members will be competing for Team GB.

Charlie Walker, Sam Bowen and Netra Rana have all served in the army, but left for different reasons. After finding a love for sport however, they have all proved that there is life after the forces, and that an injury doesn’t mean the end of your career.

Charlie Walker served in the army for two years, working with the bomb disposal unit, but was forced to leave after contracting meningitis in 2008. The following year he tried out sitting volleyball – a sport he had never done before – and was hooked immediately. After making his debut at the 2010 World Cup, Charlie has now earned over 50 GB caps, and hopes to continue his success at London 2012.

Sam Bowen joined the army in 2003, where she launched and operated state-of-the-art drones which flew above the battlefields of southern Iraq carrying out surveillance. However, in 2006, she suffered severe wounds when razor-sharp shrapnel sliced her right leg and back when militants fired more than 30 rounds at her. After her life was saved by an emergency operation, and after making a remarkable recovery, Sam discovered sitting volleyball and now has over a dozen GB caps to her name since making her debut at the 2011 European Championships.

Netra Rana, a Gurkha rifleman who sustained multiple injuries in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, is also a member of Team GB’s Sitting Volleyball Squad, after being spotted playing for the MOD’s Battle Black team for wounded, injured and sick personnel. “It’s been busy training, but I enjoy my sport, and now I’m just trying my best to get in the squad and be part of the team representing Great Britain,” said Netra, who was knocked unconscious for two days when his vehicle hit an IED south of Kandahar on the 21st of January 2008.

These three athletes, along with the rest of Team GB are truly an inspiration to everyone. With their determination and team spirit, they prove that there is more to life after serving in the Armed Forces, even when suffering from an injury.

Helen Lock