IN SOME ways, it didn’t matter that Micky Yule failed to win a gold, a silver or indeed any medal at the Clyde Auditorium last night.
When you have lost both legs in Afghanistan, been through more than 40 operations and learned to walk all over again, what matters most is that you have travelled hopefully.
Yule has certainly done that since he was visited by tragedy in 2010. Last night, the 35-year-old Lincoln-based Scot finally arrived, not on the podium perhaps, but physically and mentally strong enough to finish fourth in the heavyweight final of the para-sport powerlifting.
“It’s been brilliant,” he said. “If you had said to me four years ago I’d be lifting in front of all these people, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s sad I never medalled but, if medals were easy, everybody would have one. I just need to train harder.”
Yule is just grateful to be involved in a sport that has served as a life-affirming alternative to the grinding slog of rehabilitation.
“It gave me something else to focus on instead of worrying about surgeries, operations, rehab,” he said. “It gave me something to target, a different focus. The sport has been brilliant for me.”
Brought up in Musselburgh, Yule joined the Army in 1996. He jumped out of planes and spent four years in the Navy before gaining qualifications in demolition, a career move that took him to Helmand Province, as a staff sergeant with the Royal Engineers, on a mission to clear improvised explosive devices.
One day, he stood on a pressure plate. His left leg was gone, his right was in an unholy mess and one of his hands was hanging off. Yule’s fellow patrol members saved his life, but that was followed by six days in a coma, endless months of mental anguish and the long, punishing process of learning to walk on prosthetic legs.
He has handled it astonishingly well. Asked last night to explain how hard it has been, he replied: “I had legs four years ago so you can imagine how hard it is. Everybody’s got a wee bit of trouble in their life. I just went through a bad time. I’ve got responsibilities. I need to get on with it. I need to be a dad. I need to be a husband. So I’m not going to sit about getting caught up in why things happen to me.”
It was when he attended a rehab centre for injured soldiers that Yule, a weightlifter in the army, was identified as having paralympic potential. Not only was he selected to represent Scotland at Glasgow 2014, he was among those picked to feature in the series of “iconic” pre-Games photographs. Yule’s tattoed torso, set among the cranes of a Govan shipyard, might as well have been painted by Peter Howson.
By the time he was settling into the Athletes Village, Yule was loving it. On Tuesday, he met Prince William, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and Usain Bolt, a photograph he later posted on Twitter. “What a day, chilling with my pals,” was the message.
Yesterday, he was at it again on social media, posting a photo showing his choice of “lucky pants” for the big day – Batman or Help for Heroes. It was a long wait for Yule, whose final was not until the evening, before which the lightweight final took place at the same venue.
Para-sport powerlifting is a curious business. With no power in their legs to provide stability, the competitors depend on their core strength to do what is basically a bench press. They lower a weighted bar towards their chest before returning it to the original position and waiting to hear if the judges approve.
It is complicated by the variety of shapes and sizes on show. The key statistic is not how much has been lifted, but the athlete’s points total, a figure determined by a formula that starts with the lifter’s best result, multiplies it by his bodyweight, and takes away the number you first thought of. Or something like that.
Euan Burton, Scotland’s judo gold medallist, was among those there to watch. Yule, the lightest of the 11 finalists, celebrated the first of his three lifts – 172kg – with a hulk-style gesture. Placed fourth after the first round, he raised the stakes by 5kg, and did the needful, only to find that he had still not leapt into the bronze-medal position.
Then, the dilemma was by how much to increase his weight for the final effort. He chose to try for 183kg – a “Hollywood lift”, as he later described it – but he could not pull it off. The gold medal went to Nigerian Abdulazeez Ibrahim.
Next up for Yule is his bid to reach the Paralympic Games in Rio. The good news, apart from the fact that he will be in an easier weight category, is that he will not be asked to pose naked in a photo shoot. “No more topless posters for a while,” he said. “That is officially unlucky.”