Making the Most of the Invictus Games
By JJ Chalmers, 2014 Invictus Games competitor
I was lucky enough to take part in the Invictus Games last year as part of the British Armed Forces team. Well, maybe lucky is a strange way to put it. After all, the only reason I was eligible for the Games is because a few years earlier I was blown up in Afghanistan and pretty badly injured. As a Royal Marine serving in Afghanistan I was living my dream and in a split second that was all taken away from me. I could have given up on life. But when I was lying in a hospital bed and it felt like my life as I knew it is over, all I could think about was that I needed to get myself back to being myself.
Taking part in the Invictus Games was exactly what I needed. It gave me the opportunity to once again be part of a team, represent my country and push myself to be the best I could be. For me, and lots of other competitors, it was about so much more. It gave us a new lease of life and a new direction. It also helped me discover something I had a real passion for.
With the intense media build up before the games and the incredible TV coverage by the BBC throughout, I was lucky enough to get a unique glimpse into the world of broadcast sport. It wasn’t something that I knew a lot about, but I realised I definitely wanted to find out more.
During the Games last year I found myself in the BBC studio being interviewed live by Jonathan Edwards. After this interview he was kind enough to keep in touch with me and with some encouragement from my wife I plucked up the courage to phone him and ask him how I could go from being an interviewee to interviewer. The next time I did an interview, I wanted to be sat in his chair!
Well, thanks to his guidance and the support of many other incredible people I’ve met as a result of the Invictus Games, I am close to achieving my new dream.
Earlier this year, I was given the amazing opportunity to co-present the highlights of National Paralympic Day for Channel 4 where I interviewed some of the biggest Paralympic stars. And recently, I interviewed my friend and fellow competitor Dave Henson, ahead of his debut at the Doha IPC World Athletics Championships. I couldn’t be prouder of him if I tried!
The Invictus Games have had such a wide-ranging impact on the competitors. It made me realise that going into TV was something I really wanted to do. For Dave, the Games made him realise that a professional career in athletics may not be a pipe dream after all. Many of the men and women I competed with and against are now following different paths, but the common thread bonding us together is that we now believe in ourselves and in life again.
I definitely want to be part of the next Invictus Games in Orlando and my long-term goal is to be part of the Channel 4 presenting team at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. My recovery has shown me that the world is full of truly incredible people and I want to have the opportunity to tell their stories. Mine has been told and it changed my life, I want to help others change theirs.