Losing my legs won’t stop me cycling across States

Steve Richardson
Steve Richardson
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A WAR veteran is to take part in his first major adventure since losing both his legs in Afghanistan.

Private Steve Richardson, 23, from Tranent, will ride a handbike in the Race Across America (RAAM) – one of the world’s toughest cycling races – in June to raise money for Help for Heroes.

The solder, who was injured after he stood on an improvised explosive device (IED) during a firefight in Nad-e Ali in June 2010, will be one of an eight-strong team of wounded veterans who will take it in turns to ride more than 3051 miles.

The team will travel non-stop, covering up to 500 miles a day between them as they pass through 12 states from Oceanside, California to Annapolis in Maryland, and climbing well over 100,000 feet through the course of the race. They will be pitched against professional and amateur cyclists, including a team of wounded US servicemen.

Pte Richardson, of 1 SCOTS, is currently receiving recovery support from the army ahead of his eventual discharge.

He said: “I was attracted to the RAAM because it gave me the chance to prove to others and myself that I can do it. When I first decided to commit myself to the training it felt good to have something to focus on. When I’m having a tough day, I’m motivated by the fact this is probably going to be my one and only chance to compete in the RAAM.”

Pte Richardson was unconscious for four days after the blast in which he lost his legs. He was taken immediately to the operating theatre at Camp Bastion, where he received emergency blood transfusions. He was then flown to the specialist Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where he remained for four weeks before being allowed to recover at home.

He is now eager to take on his next challenge. “I think cycling for that length of time in an American climate will be the toughest aspect for a cold-loving Jock like myself!” he said. “Help for Heroes has helped me and others get back into an active lifestyle by giving us challenges like the RAAM. They have also helped me with funding for equipment etc.

“It’ll be hard work but hopefully should be good fun, and will give me the experience and confidence to continue entering sports events.”

The team will be led by Jonpaul Nevin, who heads up the rehab team at Help for Heroes’ Tedworth House Recovery Centre in Wiltshire.

He said: “By participating in the RAAM we are showing our wounded and injured what they can achieve. The use of sport or outdoor activities has a proven track record to aid successful physical and psychological rehabilitation, providing the foundation for the development of a positive self-image and outlook on life. Successful completion of the RAAM will certainly help in achieving these aims.”

In November 2010, Pte Richardson spoke to the Evening News about the moment he lost his legs as he backed a Christmas campaign to encourage more people to give blood. He told how he had been ahead of his detachment scouting for IEDs, but did not detect the low-metal content device.

To donate £5, text RAAM to 70900 or visit www.bmycharity.com/battlebackraam2012. For more information see {http:// www.helpforheroes.org.uk/events/battle-back-raam.html|www.helpforheroes.org.uk/events/battle-back-raam.html|www.helpforheroes.org.uk/events/battle-back-raam.html}.