Seriously injured Melton soldier prepares to compete at Invictus Games

Ten years after losing both legs in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan, Melton man Tom Folwell is preparing to represent his country in the iconic Invictus Games.

By Nick Rennie
Friday, 8th April 2022, 1:26 pm
Melton man Tom Folwell, who is preparing to represent Team UK at the Invictus Games in The Hague EMN-220804-125827001
Melton man Tom Folwell, who is preparing to represent Team UK at the Invictus Games in The Hague EMN-220804-125827001

The 36-year-old former Army sapper is looking forward to captaining Team UK’s Wheelchair Rugby and Wheelchair Basketball squads at the event, in The Hague, in Holland, which starts on Saturday April 16.

Being part of the 61-strong team of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans competing in the international sporting competition is a huge boost for Tom, who lost his legs and four finger tips after standing on an improvised explosive device (IED) while on foot patrol in Helmand Province in June 2012.

He said: “Competing in the Invictus Games will provide justification that my hard work can be rewarded, that I am still a member of the greater military family and provide me with a much-needed sense of achievement.

Melton man Tom Folwell, who is preparing to represent Team UK at the Invictus Games in The Hague EMN-220804-125837001

“I’m keeping my medal targets close to my chest as I don’t want to jinx it.

“The Games will provide my boy, Harvey, who is eight, an opportunity to experience his dad in an environment that he has never been a part of.

“One of brotherhood, camaraderie and excellence.

“This will give him a sense of pride and an opportunity to inspire his young mind.

“I am always looking to learn in order to better myself and the Invictus Games provides the perfect opportunity for me to continue on this road to success.”

It has been a frustrating wait to compete at the event for Tom and the other Team UK competitors – 91 per cent of whom will be competing at their first Invictus Games – after they were originally selected in October 2019.

Everything was put on hold when the coronavirus pandemic took hold - the Games were initially shifted to 2021, but uncertainty forced a second postponement and the event will now take place over the week to April 22.

“The training camps run by Help for Heroes since Covid have been a lifeline to most of the team,” said Tom, who wil also be competing in Sitting Volleyball.

“Having the games postponed twice really hit a lot of us hard, but having these camps has helped us realise it’s actually going to happen.”

He added: “After the Games I will be undergoing surgery which will allow me to walk on prosthetics again.

“This is definitely something I am looking forward to and it will give me another boost in life.”

Having not seen each other in person since the start of 2020, the team, along with coaches and support staff, attended the first post-lockdown Invictus UK training camp, in November last year, and they have continued to join weekend camps, provided by Help for Heroes.

The military charity is responsible for the selection, training and welfare of UK competitors.

Team UK – sponsored for the first time by BAE Systems – will compete in nine sports - athletics; archery; wheelchair basketball; cycling; powerlifting; indoor rowing; wheelchair rugby; swimming and sitting volleyball.

Help for Heroes’ Hannah Lawton, who is chef de mission for Team UK, said: “The journey to an Invictus Games is always massive for every single competitor as they learn to adapt to life-changing injuries and illnesses, and manage daily struggles, before even getting to the point of applying to compete.

“None of us imagined that Team UK would have the added challenge of a pandemic and – by the time they get to The Hague – a delay of two years.

“These competitors are well-versed in taking on challenges though and I’m so proud of the commitment they’ve shown to the team, whether that’s in keeping up with training virtually, supporting their teammates or recognising when they need to step back and take a break.”

Invictus UK is delivered by a partnership comprising Help for Heroes, the Ministry of Defence, and the Royal British Legion.