Injured Iraq veterans recruited to compete in the Paralympics

Britain's Olympic coaches are to recruit injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in an attempt to boost the host nation's medal haul at the 2012 Games in London.

They have agreed a plan with Army chiefs to retrain soldiers returning from the battlefield to participate in the Paralympics, which will take place two weeks after the "main event" in August 2012.

As well as boosting the UK's medal haul, the initiative has been started as a means of preventing injured and disabled soldiers from becoming socially excluded.

Unofficially, there are thought to be as many as 7,000 personnel who have been seriously injured in the Iraq conflict.

The recruitment drive has been partly inspired by a similar scheme involving the United States military and talks in the UK have involved the Ministry of Defence, the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and UK Sport, the Lottery-funded quango that has received £300m to maximise the medal haul for 2012.

It is thought that potential medallists will be identified by the BPA from those servicemen and women who have lost limbs in bomb blasts, been paralysed or blinded. They are expected to provide a rich seam of talent mainly in shooting and sports requiring high levels of stamina, such as athletics, rowing and cycling.

The shadow Olympics minister, Hugh Robertson, who served as an adjutant during the 1990-91 Gulf War in the Life Guards, one of the main tank regiments, said: "I think it is an absolutely fantastic initiative ... The benefits of taking up disabled sports for disabled soldiers injured in conflict are not only obvious in physical terms but also in repositioning their lives."

The Paralympics in 2012 will be something of a homecoming for disabled sport, which was included in the roster for the first time when the Games were staged in London in 1948. This was thanks to the endeavours of Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist at at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Aylesbury, who treated veterans of the Second World War with spinal injuries and whose idea it was to include a "wheelchair" element in those Games. The event was named the "Paralympics" for the 1960 Rome Games.

The standard-bearer of Paralympics in Britain in recent years has been Tanni Grey-Thompson, the nation's most successful wheelchair athlete, who has won multiple golds at four consecutive Games. Grey-Thompson points out that the modern Paralympics is highly competitive.

The military influence in US wheelchair sport is at a more advanced stage, and has drawn on veterans of conflicts dating back to Vietnam. The US team for London 2012 is expected to consist of 10 per cent former military personnel.

Last month, a Paralympic summit in Colorado was addressed by John Register, an amputee and veteran of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He said: "Right now they [the Iraq vets] are having to ask themselves some difficult questions. They're asking: 'Who am I now? Am I still a father? Am I still a husband or a wife? Sport helps provide answers to some of those questions."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering