WARRIOR GAMES: Experience worth more than any medals for former soldier
'˜It pushed me right out of my comfort zone and I am better for it'
Michael Bond may not have come home with a medal from the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. But to him, returning with a better understanding of himself, new friends and support network is more valuable than any gold, silver or bronze around his neck.
“It pushed me right out of my comfort zone and I am better for it,” said Michael, 50, who has been suffering the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since an incident in Cyprus in 1991 and from when he was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Bosnia in 1994.
“Being part of the Games was an incredible experience.”
Michael was 34th in the archery, after practising with Rugby Sport for the Disabled and 28th in the indoor rowing. He had been rowing at Xercise4Less as well as doing boxing training with Military Fitness.
“I met some fantastic people and made some great friends. Team UK did ourselves proud and won 52 medals, which was more than expected,” he said. “The weather was amazing, 36 degrees every day.And as we were 7,258 feet above sea level the air was very thin and so it was a challenge breathing and competing at that altitude.
“Watching the sun come up over the Rockies is something I’d never tire of seeing.
“The competition was nothing like I have ever experienced,” said Michael, who works for Asda at Magna Park.
“The crowd noise was incredible. There were 34,000 people in an American football stadium for the opening ceremony and then the closing ceremony was just for the athletes.
“The Games were shown live on television over there and viewing figures averaged 330,000 a day.
“There were cameras everywhere. The athletes’ lounge was the only place to escape them!”
Athletes compete in disability, rather than age categories, and while the 40-strong Team UK were almost all forces veterans including the oldest aged 69, 80 per cent of the Americans were still serving. Michael left the army in 1996.
“Some of the people I met have been totally inspirational,” he said. “We all supported each other, looking out for each other regardless of nationality.”
Michael was particularly impressed by quadraplegic James Howard from Special Operations Command, who took part in a range of events.
“I am very proud that I was selected, proud to have represented my country and proud of all the guys out there. The support staff couldn’t have done more for us.
“Veterans are treated differently over there. Because I was wearing team kit little kids would come up and ask for an autograph.
“We would always be announced with our rank and our pictures would come up on a big screen.”
As a memento team members received special coins and were also given thank-you cards from children, which he said were vey emotional to read.
“Some of the Americans showed very impressive skills. Some had been to three or four Warrior and Invictus Games.
“I would like to do another one, possibly in 2020, when the Invictus Games will be in Holland. The Warrior Games are always in the States.
“I hope it inspires other veterans to get out there and do it and try and help their recovery through sport.”
Michael is very grateful to his family for all their support and sacrifices which enabled him to take part.
The Warrior Games was established in 2010 as a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured service members and expose them to adaptive sports. Teams from the USA were joined not only by the UK but Canada and Australia too, competing in ten sports.
Michael and fellow ex-serviceman David Davies will be supporting the Help for Heroes Asda National Collection Weekend in the Rugby store on July 21-22, selling merchandise and encouraging donations.