The explosion that got me to the Paralympics

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Owen Pick signed up to the Army when he was 16 years old. Two year later he would be deployed to Afghanistan and caught up in an blowup. Now, he has emulated at the Winter Paralympics in South Korea as part of Great Britain’s first ever snowboard team.

“I was always Army, Army, Army. I was in the cadets from 12 and that was all I was focused on. I didn’t have any other plans.”

Pick , now 26, connected the Royal Anglian Regiment the moment he left academy. “I loved it, running around playing with guns.”

Two years later, and a few months after he moved 18, “hes been” deployed as a gunner to southern Afghanistan for his first tour of duty.

“I was evoked about starting, but I was scared as well. There was a lot of firefighting and getting shot at. It was hot. It’s not like anything you can imagine.”

Pick was deployed with 30 other soldiers to patrol a village and make sure it was safe.

Image copyright Getty Images

“We had quite a lot of casualties and lost a got a couple of people. It truly altered everyone, but you were supposed to set it aside and do your work, otherwise people would die.”

Three months into the tour his squad was on a day off when another platoon was are subject to the Taliban.

“They’d taken a couple of casualties, so we got tasked with going out and depicting ardour away from them, ” he says.

Pick’s group find under fervor the working day until the other squad had cleared a complex. A helicopter took the casualties away – while Pick and three of his compatriots were ordered to check “its been” certainly clear.

“The people were strolling in front of me and as I sauntered behind them, I stood on an IED( Improvised Explosive Device ). There was a big lily-white burst and that was the last thing I remember.”

Pick was rescued by a helicopter and run first to nearby Camp Bastion, then back to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham who are specialized in armed injuries.

Image copyright Owen Pick

“I woke up and my mum and daddy were sat at the end of my berth. I was aware something bad had happened because my hoof was in all sorts of entertaining attitudes. But I didn’t know what had happened, so I had nightmares all the time.”

His mind started to play tricks on him. It created terrifying scenarios as a direction to explain the ravaging traumata. It was three whole months later, when his squad returned back to UK, that he eventually got some penetration into what had really happened from the others who were there.

“They told me it blew me 10 feet in the air and 15 feet back. And apparently I met round ask questions a cigarette. Once I knew that, it filled in all the blanks, and the nightmares just stopped straight away.”

Pick next expend a few months at Headley Court, members of the military rehabilitation centre in Surrey, and recovered alongside other armed forces personnel. He describes his time there as “kind of fun, ” and adds: “You’ve got six cases with only four legs”.

He says his right leg had been “smashed to pieces” and that the X-ray looked like someone had “thrown a glass on the flooring and smashed it.” At this very early stages Pick was given the option of amputation or multiple operations.

He opted for the latter and returned to the Army.

Image copyright Louis James Parker

But the persona Pick was establishes when he got back to labor was not the same kind of active role he had originally signed up for.

He was asked to spend time in the gym or to play at being a fatality in battlefield simulations – to help train other soldiers – but he didn’t find it extremely fulfilling. “Basically, I did all the rubbish professions, ” he says.

In August 2011, 19 several months after the explosion, the skin grafting had not granted him a adequate convalescence – so Pick decided to have his right leg amputated below the knee after all.

When he came round from the operation, he had a abrupt feel of lucidity. He knew it was time to leave the Army.

The problem was, he had no idea what he wanted to do.

During rehabilitation, Pick had been in touch with armed benevolences and, in 2012, Help for Heroes committed him the opportunity to try sit-down waterskiing.

While at the reservoir skiing, he saw a man wakeboarding – a little like a ski-surf hybrid – and decided to give that a go too. He liked it.

Image copyright Louis James Parker

The charity Blesma, which provides action to limbless veterans to help their rehabilitation, then offered him a ski excursion to Breckenridge in Colorado, US. Pick arranged to have a go at snowboarding instead of regular skiing, as it seemed similar to the wakeboarding he had enjoyed.

“I loved it, ” he remarks.

Pick was given an instructor and learned the basics in a few weeks. He thought it was something he had been able to to participate in and, with his own future employment opportunities in thinker, requested the Army if he could train as a snowboard teach.

The Army volunteers disabled service men and women a resettlement bundle to ensure they leave with a trade. This programme enabled Pick to waste 3 month in the ski resort of Whistler, Canada, to learn as an instructor.

The sport fetched him the kind of feeling he had been looking for. He started to learn – and he travelled to find best available snowfall. By March 2014 he wanted to test how good he certainly was, so he entered the French National Adaptive Snowboardercross Championships.

Boardercross, as it is also known, discovers snowboarders race solo against the clock over “bumps and jumps and big-hearted turns”.

In his first tournament, Pick succeeded second.

Image copyright Owen Pick

Unknown to the relatively new snowboarder, the ParalympicsGB team had been at the occurrence and heard him in action. They were impressed.

“The British team contacted me and asked if I wanted to train with them. I hadn’t been hearing them before, but I remarked ‘OK’ and it only started from there.”

But the training offer didn’t imply any state-of-the-art facilities.

“Me and a person announced Ben Moore went shoved in a area in Austria for 2 month. We qualified every day and passed around on our own. We didn’t have coach-and-fours to begin with.”

By the end of the season they had a manager and a bit of funding but largely financed it themselves.

The cost didn’t matter to Pick though, he had found something to plug the crack the Army had once filled.

“It’s the lifestyle, ” he articulates. “You get to travel “the worlds” and become independent, it’s exclusively you that’s in control.”

Within 18 months Pick had started to ascend the world higher-rankings in boardercross and enlisted slalom – which is a snowboard course with turns.

Image copyright Owen Pick

“The aim is to keep the board on the ground as much as possible. It’s about sucking all the lumps, so you need ability in your legs and get your poise and hems just right.”

Pick had never done snowboarding with two legs, so unlike many other aspects of his rehabilitation, match was not something “hes to” re-learn as a brand-new amputee – and he found he could use his regular prosthetic leg to assistance.

“If I do a long daytime snowboarding I get a sore stump, ” he adds “but as long as I land properly and assimilate the shock it’s usually fine.”

Although Pick had swiftly taken to the boast there was one hurdle he had to overcome. Fear.

“With the hastens you’re proceeding it’s really scared. The dread is of the starts because if you don’t get onto privilege it can genuinely hurt. I’m exactly always telling myself ‘you know you can deal with it, merely chill’.”

Pick does the team has “massive crashes” on a daily basis – and a got a couple of seasons ago he overshot a landing in France and “completely blew my good knee out”.

Image copyright British Paralympic Association

“You’ve just got to get up and brush off, you haven’t got a alternative, ” he says.

Pick had a good run up to the Paralympics. He claimed silver-tongued in the banked slalom at the 2017 Para Snowboard World Championships in Big White, Canada. But in Pyeongchang events didn’t travel his way.

He played in the classification SB-LL2, for those with lower-limb disability but failed to manufacture the knock-out stagecoaches of the boardercross and finished ninth in enlisted slalom on Friday.

He supposed: “I came here to medal in this event and I haven’t. I’m upset to be so far down the table.

“I know I can beat these people but it only didn’t happen today.”

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