Powerlifters representing Team UK in the Invictus Games 2018 honed their skills at Brunel University London during their final training camp before competing in Australia later this month.
Over two days at Brunel's Indoor Athletics Centre, the powerlifters – wounded, injured and sick serving military personnel and veterans – bench-pressed under the guidance of Team UK's powerlifting head coach, Ben Richens.
The 18 men and women – competing in the lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight categories – are Team UK's biggest powerlifting team yet for an Invictus Games, and are part of a UK delegation of 72 competitors heading to Sydney for the international veterans' sports event, starting on 20 October.
Invictus athletes are selected as part of a rigorous process based on the benefit the games will give each individual as part of their recovery, combined with performance and commitment to training.
For Lieutenant Commander Emma McCormick, who serves in the Royal Navy, her path towards selection for the Invictus Games, and her journey since then, has helped her recover from a freak accident in which her leg was starved of oxygen.
"I was looking for a new sport that would allow me to get out of a wheelchair, get off my crutches, have a little bit more confidence in life," she said. "And then Help for Heroes came along, and they offered a powerlifting programme to us, and I was lucky enough to be selected."
Although the Invictus Games are competitive, with Team UK's powerlifters taking home five medals from last year's games in Toronto, being part of a close-knit and friendly team is a big part of the prize.
"What I really want to do is honestly push myself, do my absolute best, show my family how far I've come – and go and have a laugh with these guys," said Emma, gesturing towards her team-mates.
Left: Lavinia Goddard prepares for the final round, in which she broke her personal best. Centre: Head coach Ben Richens readies Abbie Kasparis for her next attempt. Right: The female powerlifters’ practice competition.
Getting rid of demons
Jonathan Mitchell was a Sergeant in the Army's Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, specialising as a vehicle mechanic. He powerlifted for Great Britain, for the Army and for tri-Services before he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia.
Six years on, his recovery has taken him far. "I thought I'd give powerlifting a go again – start building up, start working up again," he said, "and now I'm powerlifting captain for Team UK Invictus.
"What I want to get out of it is to get rid of my own demons, but also I feel better by seeing other people get better."
Brunel's Indoor Athletics Centre is unique among London universities, and is part of the university's spacious sporting facilities – enjoyed by athletes and para-athletes from Brunel, the UK and beyond.
"The facilities are world-class here," said head coach Ben. "We've done two camps here at Brunel. Really good set-up, so we're covered in all areas."
The Invictus Games Team UK wheelchair basketball team were also on site in the Sports Hall, and took time out of training to play a friendly against Brunel's own team.
Left: The Indoor Athletics Centre. Right: The Invictus Games Team UK wheelchair basketball team taking on the Brunel team.
These facilities, combined with a strong sports pedigree and a competitive and prestigious Sports Scholarship Programme, have enabled Brunel to help athletes achieve their world-leading potential, including several Rio 2016 Paralympics success stories.
Brunel also has strong links with the military, having signed the Armed Forces Covenant in September 2016, and holds a silver award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
Read more about Brunel University London’s Sports Scholarship Programme, enquire about booking our world-class sports facilities, or find out about our Armed Forces Covenant.
Main image: The Invictus Games Team UK powerlifters and coaches meet Mike Keighley, Brunel's Armed Forces Covenant Champion and serving Army Reservist.
Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
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