From injury in Afghanistan to bronze in Rio

Captain (Retd) Nick Beighton, seriously wounded in Afghanistan in 2009, carried the Book of Remembrance at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in November. It capped a memorable year in which he also won a bronze medal at the Rio 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.

Paralympian and former Army Captain Nick Beighton explains how sport helped him

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.

“Five weeks into my tour, I stood on an improvised explosive device”

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.

Nick competing in the KL2 final.

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 this summer 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 have been pursuing 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.

“It was incredible to have the honour of parading the book in front of the Queen”

Waiting in the wings at the Festival of Remembrance, I was pretty fidgety – which is not good when you are holding a very precious book!

I’d never been to the Royal Albert Hall prior to this year’s event, so it was incredible to experience the atmosphere and have the honour of parading with the book in front of Her Majesty The Queen.

Nick was the book bearer at the Festival of Remembrance.

Although Remembrance Day is a chance to reflect on the sacrifices made during the First World War, it is also an opportunity to acknowledge the debt society owes to others who have died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy.

My generation, like the ones before, has fought its wars and lost friends along the way – so for me, Remembrance is as relevant today as it has been for nearly 100 years.

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