War hero’s trip of a lifetime to Rio games

Stuart Robinson (left) playing rugby at the Invictus Games in 2014

Stuart Robinson (left) playing rugby at the Invictus Games in 2014

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Veteran Stuart Robinson is among a group of athletes heading to Rio de Janiero thanks to the charity Help for Heroes.

Stuart, from Morecambe, is one of seven people chosen to be part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme.

The programme, which was first launched in London 2012, provides athletes and coaching staff with an experience of several days at a Paralympic Games.

It aims to provide developing athletes knowledge which will prepare them for a future games experience as a selected athlete, as well as inspire and excite potential future Paralympians.

Stuart, 34, lost both his legs serving with the RAF in Afghanistan in 2013 when he was caught in a bomb attack.

He plays wheelchair rugby and will travel to Brazil next month where the programme aims to provide an understanding of the scale and scope of the games; give an experience of a multi-sport environment and give exposure to some of the unique aspects of a games, including the athletes' village, the media spotlight and mixed zone, and transport systems.

Additionally, there will be a rigorous curriculum that the participants will undertake, with lessons about nutrition, media, anti-doping, competition planning and goal setting, as well as being expected to keep up with their current training programmes.

Athletes were nominated by their national governing body based on a number of criteria, including but not limited to being on a development pathway, with an anticipated performance trajectory for the 2018 or 2020 Paralympic Games.

The programme is developed by the British Paralympic Association and Help for Heroes and is part of their existing Front Line to Start Line programme – which aims to fast-track military athletes into sports pathways.

Front Line to Start Line is one of the products of a long-term partnership between the BPA and Help for Heroes, which is based on a shared belief in the power of rehabilitation through sports and a commitment to introduce military personnel and veterans to opportunities in Paralympic sport.

Jayne Kavanagh, performance pathway manager at Help for Heroes, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to again be involved with such a unique initiative to enable our country’s wounded to experience the spirit of the Summer Paralympics at Rio, thanks to our partners at the BPA.

"It is our hope that this experience will inspire our Paralympic Inspiration Programme athletes to dedicate themselves to their training in order to achieve their dreams of competing in future summer and winter Paralympic games.

“However, we also know that sport plays a big part in the recovery journey, providing a sense of confidence and purpose as well as improving general wellbeing.

"We encourage anyone that might want to try sport for the first time post injury to be inspired by these athletes and they too could find and experience the power of sport in their day to day lives.”

Kate Eddy, athlete services manager at BPA, said: “It is really exciting to be able to launch the Paralympic Inspiration Programme once again. We know that the programme has been really successful in the past and so I look forward to following this Rio cohort on their journeys towards Tokyo.

"I would like to take the opportunity to thank the organisations who have supported the programme, as without them it would not be possible to run the programmes and to provide these athletes with an experience that will have a tangible impact on their preparations and development over the next Games cycle.”