INVICTUS GAMES: Jen Warren home with gold and eight silvers

Jen Warren at the Invictus Games  PICTURES BY ROGER KELLER/HELP FOR HEROES
Jen Warren at the Invictus Games PICTURES BY ROGER KELLER/HELP FOR HEROES

But triathlete says experience was so much more than medals...

Triathlete Jen Warren won gold and eight silvers at the Invictus Games - but she came home from Orlando with far more than medals.

Jen Warren with two of her nine medals

Jen Warren with two of her nine medals

“The whole experience was amazing and I did much better than I ever expected,” said Jen, 35, an anaesthetist at Coventry’s University Hospital.

“I was worried that I would come last in everything! Having invested so much time and effort I was really pleased to do so well across all three of my sports and I was very happy with my times too. I feel I’ve vindicated myself as a triathlete!”

The Rugby Triathlon Club member, who also trains with Coventry Godiva Harriers, won a medal in every one of her events - gold and silver in the hand cycling, four silvers in wheelchair racing on the track and another three in the swimming.

“I have to keep reminding myself when I look at them that they really are mine, but competing in the Games has given me so much more than just medals,” she explained.

On her way to three silvers in the pool

On her way to three silvers in the pool

“It was empowering and has helped me to realise a lot about myself.

“I like to underestimate what I can do and the whole experience has given me confidence - and confidence that I’m doing the right things and should carry on.

“It was just such an extraordinary experience and I am so lucky to have been part of it.”

Having joined the army from medical school in 2001, the former major, who served in Afghanistan, was injured in a skiing accident in February 2008. Complications left her with nerve damage and limited use of her left leg.

Jen Warren at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida last month

Jen Warren at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida last month

Jen spent a long time at Headley Court rehabilitation centre but after a year she persuaded the army to let her train as an anaesthetist, which no one initially thought possible due to her disability.

She was medically discharged in 2013 but continued her anaesthetic training and currently works part time at UHCW.

The Invictus Games, for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, were launched in London by Prince Harry in 2014 and when Jen watched them on television she was determined to be part of the next one.

“It was a very polished event and the Americans made us feel very welcome,” said Jen, who was supported in Florida by friends and family, including husband Jon and two-year-old daughter Sally.

“It was a great venue with an athletes village and everything was held on one site. They had even built a new pool.

“There was fantastic support for us at every event and it wasn’t just about coming first. A Jordanian girl came last in the 100m and she received as many cheers as the winner.

“There was a lot to be celebrated, not just the elite side of things. In the pool there was a lady in her 60s who had only taken up swimming two years ago and she won a bronze medal.

“There were a lot of great, inspirational stories. For some it was an achievement just getting on the plane, others are aiming to go to the Paralympics in Rio. It was a celebration of ability and there was a category for everybody.”

Jen enjoyed meeting different athletes from all around the world: “It’s often hard to find other people who do hand cycling, so it was nice to be on the starting grid with lots of other people to race with.

“At one of my races my friend shouted to me that Linford Christie had come to watch, which was really cool. Ian Thorpe came to the swimming too, so to have some celebrities watching us was very exciting.”

Jen also had her final medal presented to her by Prince Harry.

“It was great to have his support throughout the week. I don’t think there was a sport he didn’t visit,” she said.

“When you organise something there are a lot of demands on your time, but he went above and beyond what was expected of him and it was really nice to see him there.

“He is very passionate when he talks about the Invictus Games and his words at the opening ceremony were very poignant for some of my colleagues. “The military particularly find it embarrassing to talk about mental health and his address really helped. It was really special.”

Before her trip to Florida Jen was featured in a BBC documentary ‘Invictus: The Road to the Games’ which has earned her some well-deserved attention out training and at work.

“I’ve been stopped by about ten people at Draycote Water saying such lovely things, which is really special and I feel very lucky,” she added.

“I am proud of what I have achieved in my work and my sport.

“The Games have helped me to recognise how much I love my job and would never give it up to do sport full time.

“I already knew how much my sport was important to me, to acknowledge and appreciate things. When it’s cold and dark for training, you don’t realise what experiences it means you can have if you put your mind to it.

“I also realise how lucky I am with so many messages of support. I’ve had lots of feedback on my Facebook page too and it’s nice to know that what I have done has helped others come to terms with things and made a difference.

“People keep asking me what’s next, but for the moment I would just like to take time to appreciate what I’ve done and enjoy it. I’m back in training and just want to be the best I can be and see where that takes me.

“I’m a long way off the standard for the Paralympics, but I have achieved a lot over the last four months of intensive training and I’m on the steep part of my improvement curve so I’d just like to see what comes.”

PICTURES BY ROGER KELLER/HELP FOR HEROES