Felpham athlete Mike Goody is preparing to defend his four swimming titles at the Invictus Games in Florida.
The former RAF Regiment Gunner was injured in an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2008 and left with a compound fracture of his left ankle.
Following two years of painful surgery and rehabilitation, he took the decision to have his foot amputated.
He has since been training hard and has been swimming full time in the hope of competing for Great Britain at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Mike travelled to Glasgow on Friday to compete in the International Paralympic Committee Championship and bid for selection to the Great Britain swimming squad for September.
But before then, he has the second Invictus Games to look forward to at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, from Sunday, May 8, to Thursday, May 12.
Mike, 30, will join 110 other wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans as they compete in the international competition, following the inaugural event launched by Prince Harry in London in 2014.
Mike will compete in the 50m and 100m freestyle events, as well as the 50m backstroke and 50m breaststroke. He also hopes to be selected for the relay team.
In 2014, Mike won gold in 50m back and breaststroke, 100m freestyle and the relay race. He also took home silver in the 50m freestyle.
Mike said: “Having to defend that many titles is going to be difficult.
“Since the last Games, I know a lot of the guys have been training hard and some have faster times than me, so it is a bit more of a level playing field this time. But I’m ready to give it my best.
“Being able to represent your country again is a fantastic feeling. When I was in the forces, I was representing Great Britain as a soldier. Now I am representing Great Britain as a soldier but also in the field of sport.
“I am training very hard at the moment, six days a week, more so than I did for the last Games! Even though I have lost a leg and have a back ragged to pieces, I am probably in one of the fittest states that I have ever been. I am eating healthily, not drinking or smoking, so physically this has made a huge difference.
“Mentally, swimming focuses my thought process. When I swim I get to be alone with my thoughts. Whether I am angry, upset, depressed or happy there is training to accompany all of it.”
The UK Invictus team heads off to Florida on Wednesday.
Mike added: “The team atmosphere is immense. There are also jokes and banter and practical jokes going on. But it’s all with the serious undertone that we are there to represent our country and compete.”
Mike was injured on his first tour of Afghanistan. His life was changed forever when the armoured vehicle he was driving hit a roadside bomb, trapping him under the wreckage.
After three hours, he was pulled free and later flown to Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital. The blast caused such severe injuries to Mike’s left leg that he was left wheelchair bound while he endured 14 major surgeries in an attempt to repair the shattered bones.
The blast also left Mike with brain injury and he was diagnosed with PTSD.
The RAF Benevolent Fund has helped Mike Goody by buying him an automatic car to get around and adapting his home to ensure he can live independently.
The fund is the RAF’s leading welfare charity, providing financial, practical and emotional support to all members of the RAF family.
It is there for serving and former members of the RAF, as well as their partners and dependants, whenever they need help.
The charity helps members of the RAF family deal with a wide range of issues, from childcare and relationship difficulties to injury and disability, and from financial hardship and debt to illness and bereavement.
Mike also has a lot of support from his family.
“What means the most is the three most important people in the world to me, my parents and my girlfriend Sara,” he said. “In fact, it’s a bit of an anniversary for Sara and me as we got together just before the last Invictus Games in 2014.”
Mike and his girlfriend, Sara Trott, from Angmering, will be competing together in a charity challenge on Sunday.
They are both signed up for London West Tough Mudder to raise money for Heyshott-based assistance dog charity Canine Partners.
The 20km run is jam-packed with army obstacles and calls on contestants to crawl in mud and swim through ice, making it an extremely tough, both physically and mentally.
Sara is an advanced trainer at Canine Partners and the pair hope to raise at least £600, which will enable the charity to train more assistance dogs, transforming the lives of people with disabilities.
Mike said: “I’ve seen first-hand how these dogs are able to improve the lives of the people with whom they are partnered and believe the charity is an amazing cause. I feel privileged and honoured to be able to represent Canine Partners at this event and raise as much as humanly possible.”
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