As the Winter Olympics in South Korea draw ever closer the thought of representing my country at Sledge Hockey will be an amazing honour, however we first have the Worlds in 2017 and then the qualifiers later on in the year. My place in the GB Sledge Hockey side is by no means guaranteed as I was only introduced to the world of Sledge Hockey at the beginning of 2013 whilst on a winter sports camp in Whistler, Canada. I quickly grew to love the sport and found every time I got on the ice I felt free and wondered why I hadn’t been doing this longer, I wanted to take it further by asking to train with the GB squad. They said that I could come and train with them as the sport is still very much in the development stages and any interest in the sport is welcome.
It was very daunting coming to a training session not knowing all but one person on the team. Everyone there was very experienced and with the side only getting back from the World Championships in Japan and securing a Bronze medal, the team had very much jelled together. I had introduced myself to the team and the management and all there was left to do was getting out on to the ice and show them how keen I was.
Getting on the ice was the easy part as the rest of the team were already into the warm up while I was following my friend around asking what is going on. I was still very unstable on the sledge while everyone else was gliding across the ice like a graceful figure skater, while I was like Bambi on ice. It didn’t matter how bad I was I knew I loved it and wanted to better myself and what better place to do it than training on the ice with the best Sledge Hockey players in the country. Even though I was nowhere near as good as the others I was putting all my effort into the training session and I knew it would take time to enhance my skills and get up to a standard where I could compete for a spot in the GB Team.
What I needed was as much ice time as possible, so I volunteered for every GB session and league training sessions up in Peterborough. Due to us being a low priority the timings for the sessions would always be late at night or the early hours of the morning so you really had to be committed to the sport and sometimes become a night owl. With my weekends being taken up by Sledge Hockey I was fast improving in all areas of the game and with some encouragement from the team it only spurred me on to better myself.
As I am a competitive person I will always strive to be the best that I can be or be the best in the team. That is where my military mentality comes in as once I put my mind to something I will always achieve my goal no matter how many times it takes me to complete it. In the early part of summer 2013 I played my first competitive game playing for Battle Back, a military initiative set up to help Wounded, Injured and Sick service men and women and veterans getting back in to some kind of adaptive sports. It felt like a great achievement and even though we lost the game it felt like I had won just being able to participate in the game.
March 2015 and I was selected to be part of the GB Sledge Hockey Team to compete in the IPC World Championship Pool B in Sweden, Ostersund. Competing for your country gave me the same adrenalin buzz as serving my country in Iraq. When you are on the ice before a game and your National Anthem plays you feel incredible and the anticipation grows inside you as you want the game to get underway. In my own words there is no better buzz than representing your country in the field of sport and now I want to be aiming for the podium at the Winter Paralympics in Korea.
Sledge Hockey is a fast paced team game where you can regularly see the rubber puck travel at up to speeds of over 100 mph, so you can see why we wear protective gear when on the ice. What I love about playing Sledge Hockey is that it is hard, fast, aggressive and a full contact sport. It feels exhilarating being on the ice and when you score or win a game it feels even better and that is shared throughout the team. When I have been playing for two hours and I get off the Ice I have a smile on my face and would quite happily get back on the ice and play another game, that is how much I love this sport.
With my taste for the game growing and my stamina and skill set getting better by the weekend I was starting to look towards future competitions and the thought of winning a gold medal is what will drive me on and try my hardest and if need be I will put my body on the line to achieve that medal… as pain is temporary and glory is forever!
So when the Winter Olympics are televised why don’t you look out for us and cheer us on as all the support might just get us into a podium position and you never know if you get involved now it could be you up on that podium receiving that gold medal. Just think about that one for a minute!
Till next time folks