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19 June 2019, 10:49 | Updated: 19 June 2019, 11:34
Gordon ‘Nobby’ Clark is just one of 20 wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans who have been chosen to represent the UK at this year’s Warrior Games. He will be competing in cycling and wheelchair rugby.
The Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games takes place from June 21-30 in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Approximately 400 competitors representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), United Kingdom Armed Forces, Canadian Forces and the Australian Defence Force will participate in the competition.
Gordon ‘Nobby’ Clark, now living in Cornwall, served his country as a Royal Navy steward for 26 years onboard ships and submarines. He loved his life at sea and was preparing to deploy to the Falklands in 1982 when an injury changed his life forever.
During routine training he injured his ankle. What seemed to be a straightforward, minor injury proved not to be the case. He never made it to the South Atlantic and now faced years of medical treatment: “It was left for a week before anything was done with it. Ever since then it kept collapsing and giving way until it got to a point of where I had had 13 operations.” Eventually, years after the original break, surgeons had to remove part of his right leg.
On the 13th of November 2003, he made the difficult decision to leave military service.
The 57-year-old says adapting to his new life was very difficult: “I was institutionalised. You were told where to go, how to get there, when to get there, what to wear. Your meals were all there. Suddenly it was there you go, there’s the door. No matter what they put in place when you actually get out of the gate, there was nothing. It was a very, very hard transition”.
In the meantime, Nobby’s injured ankle wasn’t getting any better. After leaving service, doctors discovered there were 14 pieces of bone which had broken away from his ankle-joint, leaving him in considerable pain. He then underwent years of bone grafts, fusions and ankle replacements.
Then they discovered the bone around his ankle was crumbling.
This proved to be the last straw for him: “I worked it out. Out of 10 years I had spent about five years in plaster and on crutches or in hospital having operations”. He made the huge decision to have his leg removed.
Despite this life-changing operation, Nobby says he’s in a better place: “Going from taking about 30 different pain killers and anti-inflammatory tablets every day, to just taking two on days that I need them. That was the biggest thing. Just being off the meds has changed me.”
The US Warrior Games is about giving wounded, injured and sick serving and veteran personnel the chance to take part in sport, alongside their peers, to show themselves, and the rest of the world, that they can. This is about ability, not disability. Every athlete at the Warrior Games has been empowered to compete.
Help for Heroes are proud to be leaders in adaptive sport; supporting over 500 of our wounded to be part of Team UK this summer for the Warrior Games, the Invictus UK Trials in Sheffield and Scotland’s Mey Games.
Help for Heroes offers support throughout the year from its Recovery Centre in Plymouth and community locations across the South West.
If you are serving or veteran wounded, injured or sick and in need of support visit Help for Heroes’ Get Support pages.