From injury in Afghanistan to bronze in Rio

Nick Beighton is a British Paralympian and former British Army Officer. After being being seriously wounded in Afghanistan in 2009 he went on to win a bronze medal at the Rio Paralympics in 2016. He spoke to us about Remembrance and his journey from the Army to the Paralympics.

I remember wearing a poppy as a Beaver and parading through my home town, Shrewsbury – I must have been seven or eight. My mum has always been a big supporter and has worn a poppy for years.

I still wear one myself. It may only seem a small gesture but it is an act of Remembrance just as much as attending a parade or church service.

Joining The Army

The dad of a classmate was in the Territorial Army, and that led me to join the local Army Cadet Force when I was 13. I must have enjoyed it because I stuck with it up to the age of 18 and reached the rank of Cadet RSM!

Nick on pre-deployment training in Kenya.

I left Sandhurst in 2006 and then spent a further year training to be a Troop Commander with the Royal Engineers. My first command position was in Germany in 2007, where I stayed until September 2009 – the start of my regiment’s tour on Op Herrick 11.

Injured in Afghanistan

The plan was for me to be out in Helmand until Christmas. Five weeks into my tour, I stood on an improvised explosive device. My legs were so badly damaged that I lost them both.

You could say I was lucky because I was outside a company patrol base and only 50 metres from a helicopter landing site. A medic was able to treat me straight after the explosion and the Chinook was called in.

I was in Camp Bastion’s hospital within about 45 minutes, which was critical to my survival. They stabilised me there, and the following evening flew me back to Birmingham, where I was transferred to Selly Oak Hospital.

Becoming a Paralympian

I’d never thought about rowing before my injuries. When I found out that the GB Rowing Team’s adaptive squad needed a male rower, I liked the idea. So I started going down to Guildford Rowing Club, organised through Headley Court, in the summer of 2010.

This was less than a year after my injury. I’d only been on my new legs for three or four months and I wasn’t as mobile as I am now. The rowing gave me a chance to be competitive and it felt great to be good at something.

I ended up coming fourth in the mixed sculls at the 2012 Paralympic Games, after which I turned my attention to the paracanoe discipline.

Nick Beighton receives his Paralympic bronze medal in Rio.
Nick receiving his bronze medal in Rio.

Competing at the Rio Paralympics was a real joy and something I’m hugely proud of. I know I won a bronze medal for basically paddling for 200 metres on a particular day, but it embodies much more for me.

It was something I pursued for six years, so there is relief and satisfaction that I proved something to myself. It is about attitude – that anything is possible, and you can achieve anything.

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