Paralympic Games: Jon-Allan Butterworth predicts more sporting servicemen
A PARALYMPIAN war hero who lost an arm in a grenade attack yesterday said more former servicemen and women will turn their attentions to sport as a result of the London Games.
Jon-Allan Butterworth is one of eight members of Britain’s 300-strong Paralympic team with a military background.
He came through the Battle Back programme, a joint venture between the Ministry of Defence and the British Paralympic Association (BPA), which encourages rehabilitation through sport from a base at Headley Court in Surrey.
The 26-year-old from Sutton Coldfield lost his left arm in a rocket attack at Basra Air Station in August 2007 while serving with the RAF. He also conducted tours of duty in Afghanistan and has three Paralympic silver medals from his first Games.
“Battle Back was the organisation which put me in touch with elite sport in the first place, so without them I wouldn’t be doing it,” said Butterworth, whose journey to London 2012 began at a ParalympicsGB talent identification day. I have met a few people since I won my first medal on the track. I saw a few paras [paratroopers] who shook my hand and said, ‘I only got injured last year but you’ve inspired me. I’m going to try and go forward and take up sport’.”
Battle Back, supported by Help for Heroes, provides a range of support and the programme is represented in a range of sports at London 2012.
Five who have come through the scheme were injured on active service – Butterworth (cycling), Netra Rana and Samantha Bowen (both sitting volleyball), Nick Beighton (rowing) and Derek Derenalagi (athletics).
Former soldier Charlie Walker (sitting volleyball) was part of the programme after losing his legs to meningitis.
Two others pre-date Battle Back but were rehabilitated at Headley Court: Jamie Burdekin (wheelchair tennis) and John Robertson (sailing).
Butterworth anticipates numerous others with the potential to succeed in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, with Help for Heroes and the BPA launching a new initiative titled Front Line To Start Line earlier this year.
“It’s about trying to find the right sport to suit the individual,” he said.
“There are probably plenty of athletes around that don’t even know they’re athletes.”
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