Ex-serviceman Joe Townsend, from Eastbourne has arrived back in the UK after making his Paralympic debut in the PT1 para-triathlon event – the first time the sport has been a part of the Paralympic Games.
Afghanistan veteran Townsend put everything into his sixth place finish in a very competitive PT1 event. He collapsed out of his racing chair at the finish, having given everything in pursuit of a truly excellent result.
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.
Jayne Kavanagh, Performance Pathway Manager at Help for Heroes, said, “We’re so proud of Joe and his performance, he’s come such a long way and deserves every success for his hard work and dedication.
“Help for Heroes are 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 Joe and they too could find and experience the power of sport in their day to day lives.”
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. He said, “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.”
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.”