A military veteran from St Helens who suffered extreme injuries whilst serving in Afghanistan is to appear in BBC coverage of the Invictus Games
Tony Williams is a driver for Team BRIT, a motor racing team of disabled ex troops – who are on the road to making sporting history, by becoming the first ever all-disabled team to compete at the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. Team BRIT stands for British Racing Injured Troops.
The Games, which are held this year in Toronto, are an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick service personnel.
The Games were founded by Prince Harry after he visited the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013 and saw how the power of sport could help physically, psychologically and socially.
The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It embodies the fighting spirit of the wounded, injured and sick service personnel and what these tenacious men and women can achieve, post injury. The Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.
Tony served as a Corporal in the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps. Whilst serving in Afghanistan in 2010 at the age of 26, Tony survived two grenade blasts before being shot six times, three weeks later, whilst giving life-saving treatment to an injured soldier that had been shot.
During the attack, he was shot in the shoulder by a sniper whilst treating his comrade. Despite this, he returned to help the casualty nearest to him, against an order to wait out medical evacuation, and was shot five more times. One ‘critical shot’ resulted in a broken hip, torn bowels and a broken spine, paralysing him from the waist down.
The initial prognosis was paraplegia and he was told he was unlikely to walk again. He was also told he had less than 5% chance of fathering children, was unlikely to regain full bladder function and had suffered severe nerve damage to his lower legs. He also sustained a mild traumatic brain injury by being hit in a grenade attack, with shrapnel embedded into his forehead.
Through determination, hard work and rehabilitation, Tony can now walk, although he has paralysis in his left leg and a drop foot, so uses a leg brace. He is also the proud father to two children.
Tony spent a year with the charity KartForce, of which Team BRIT is a branch, racing in 24hr races, such a British 24hrs, Le Mans, 24 hrs of Majorca, and smaller endurance races around the UK before being asked to the join the team.
Tony said, “When I was injured, my whole world changed and so many opportunities were taken away from me.
“I had always been extremely active, and enjoyed skiing, rugby and hockey. With none of these things an option, I gained weight and became unfit. I had never considered motorsport before I got involved with KartForce and I’m so glad I gave it a go.
“When I’m racing I forget about the pain I experience and the adrenaline rush I had always found in sport returns. I want to inspire other people who think they can’t compete or enjoy sports such as this due to a disability, and most importantly, I want to make my children proud.”
The BBC’s Invictus Team joined Team BRIT at their recent Snetterton race to capture fascinating footage to tell every part of their story, from the individual backgrounds of drivers to the cutting edge technology designed to allow disabled drivers to race competitively.
Team Founder Dave Player said, “We were approached by the BBC who were keen to include our story as part of their coverage of this fantastic event.
“Team BRIT embodies the ethos of the games completely – we share a passion and belief for supporting and rehabilitating injured troops through sport, and we are proud to be part of the BBC’s coverage of this event.”
BBC Coverage begins on Sunday 24th September on BBC One. The show will be on at 5.35pm
More information on the Invictus Foundation can be found at www.invictusgamesfoundation.org
Photos – David Archer, Kingsize Photography