Ex-serviceman Joe Townsend, from Eastbourne, is preparing to represent his country once more as part of the ParalympicsGB team competing at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro from 7 – 18 September 2016.
Joe was announced on the para-triathlon team by the British Paralympic Association (BPA) in July. He competes in Fort Copacabana on 10 September in the Men’s PT1 competition from 3.20pm (GMT).
Townsend has been supported into sport by Help for Heroes, who work in partnership with the BPA and UK Sport to provide military athletes with an introduction to Paralympic sport.
Former Royal Marine, Joe Townsend, was injured in 2008 after standing on an Improvised Explosive Device. Joe lost both of his legs in the blast and after 14 hours in surgery at Camp Bastion, he was flown back to the UK where he spent five weeks in a critical care ward.
“Hospital was really degrading for me. You go from being a Royal Marines Commando to like a new-born child. I didn’t really dwell on it and just concentrated on small goals like today I’m going to drink from a cup,” Joe said.
Gradually these goals have grown and while Joe has faced over 50 operations to date, he has also completed many endurance races including the Bolton Iron Man and the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii! In June 2012, Joe took on the world’s toughest cycling race, The Race Across America, cycling over 3,000 miles with seven other wounded servicemen fundraising for Help for Heroes.
Joe has been supported by Help for Heroes since he was first injured, enabling him to compete as an international athlete and his goal is to take part in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Joe says, “I was injured literally just as Help for Heroes was kind of being set up and it was through their support I tried sport for the first time after injury. They started a little fire.
“I discovered that once you’re in a piece of sports equipment you’re free and your disability becomes irrelevant. I can go out with any of my able-bodied friends on the bike and to be fair I can leave them for dust. Your disability isn’t impairing you at that point and it’s a good feeling.”
Joe has worked incredibly hard over the last three years, dedicating himself to his sport with his ambitions firmly set on Rio.
“To hear the news I’ve been selected is a huge sense of achievement as well as a huge sense of relief. It’s something I’ve put a huge amount of work into, something my family have worked to. Making the team and crossing that finish line will feel like reaching the pinnacle of a journey.”
Jayne Kavanagh, Performance Pathway Manager at Help for Heroes, said, “We’re proud to work in partnership with the British Paralympic Association to provide military athletes with an introduction to Paralympic sport.
“We know that sport plays a big part in the recovery journey, providing a sense of confidence and purpose as well as improving general wellbeing. We encourage anyone that might want to try sport for the first time post injury to be inspired by these athletes and they too could find and experience the power of sport in their day to day lives.”
Jonathon Riall, Team Leader and Head Coach for Para-triathlon, said, “The last few years have been a race to qualify slots and to ensure that we are ready to take on anything that the rest of the world throws at us in competition. Standards are rising quickly in this sport because it is so new."
“I believe we have selected the best possible British team, which has the potential to win medals and make its mark as para-triathlon debuts at the Paralympic Games. I am looking forward to seeing them take to the biggest stage in disability sport.”