Two athletes from Rhondda Cynon Taf are among eight men and women from Wales selected as part of the 65-strong team to represent the UK at the 2020 Invictus Games.
Kelly Leonard, 41, of Aberdare, has also been named as Vice-Captain of Team UK. She will be joined in the team by Nathan Huddy, 39, of Llantwit Fardre.
Both are proud to be in Team UK, made up of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans.
HRH The Duke of Sussex, Patron of the Invictus Games Foundation, has announced that the fifth Games will be held on May 9-16, 2020, and will be hosted in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Maureen Webber, also the Council’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “I would like to congratulate Nathan and Kelly on their achievements and selection to the 2020 Invictus Games.
“They are a major sporting event on the global calendar and we are all backing the eight Welsh sportsmen and women selected, especially Nathan and Kelly, who will be flying the flag for Rhondda Cynon Taf.”
Team UK athletes, 89 per cent of whom have never taken part in an Invictus Games before, are now undergoing training camps delivered by Help for Heroes to ensure they are best prepared for the international sporting competition next year.
RAF veteran Kelly Leonard, a former RAF Physical Training Instructor, and now a Community Paediatric Physio for the NHS, had a motorbike accident which almost led to her having her foot amputated.
She said: “My accident stopped me in my tracks. I learnt to walk again and live the best I could within my limitations. I tried several different individual and team sports but failed to fill the void as I was never able to participate on a level playing field.
“I lost focus on sport and as a result my physical and mental recovery suffered. It left me with a loss of confidence and self- belief”.
Kelly has found that training for the Invictus Games has enabled her to find sports that she can really compete in, using abilities she did not think she still had.
Nathan Huddy is a former RAF Regiment Gunner who, whilst serving in Iraq in 2003, was involved in a landmine blast, seriously injuring his left foot. He also suffered severe shrapnel wounds.
Nathan was on a reconnaissance mission when one of his patrol's vehicles hit an anti-tank mine after they mistakenly entered an Iraqi minefield. As well as his physical injuries, Nathan also continued to suffer depression and anger until his daughter was born in 2013.
But within nine months, she had to endure two open-heart surgeries and was diagnosed with dwarfism and autism. This led to strains on his marriage and ultimately it broke down.
Still, his problems did not end when in 2017, he suffered a stroke and his mental health spiralled downwards, unable to shower, feed or tie his shoelaces for himself.
Watching the 2018 Invictus Games, he was inspired to contact Help for Heroes and said it was like “a switch being flicked inside his head.”
He said: “Since starting my journey, I’ve opened more to my partner and family, which has helped massively and I’m feeling less angry and frustrated.
“From the moment of my first training camp through to the UK Team trials, I was overwhelmed with the team spirit, support and encouragement.
“It blew me away how everyone was there for each other, willing them on to do their best. That camaraderie and friendship was exactly what I loved and missed about being in the forces.
“Heroes and Team UK has given that back to me. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years and I believe starting this journey ultimately saved my relationship and life.”
Team UK will compete in nine sports overall – athletics, archery; wheelchair basketball, cycling, powerlifting, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby, swimming and sitting volleyball.
They will continue to train from now until May at various locations across the country.
HRH The Duke of Sussex was inspired to found the global tournament after attending the Warrior Games in Colorado in 2013 and seeing how injured American military personnel thrived on the challenge of taking part in competitive sports that aided their recovery.
He went on to stage the inaugural games at London's Olympic Park in 2014, followed by Orlando in 2016, Toronto in 2017 and Sydney in 2018, with The Hague chosen for the 2020 event where 500 competitors will take part in 10 adaptive sports.
The 2020 Invictus Games take place on May 9-16, 2020, at The Hague, The Netherlands
Posted on Wednesday 27th November 2019