Wounded UK veteran fighting for gold at Paralympics

Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:15am EST
 
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By Avril Ormsby

NEWPORT, Wales (Reuters) - Jon-Allan Butterworth served with the British armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he lost an arm, but says getting on a bicycle makes him most nervous.

The 25-year-old former Royal Air Force (RAF) weapons technician suffered his life-changing injury in a rocket attack on a British base in Basra in August 2007.

After watching the Beijing Olympics on TV he took up cycling as part of his rehabilitation and now has a good chance of making the British Paralympic cycling team for this summer's London Games.

In 1948, when London last staged the Olympics, the first international disabled sports event was held for Second World War veterans at Stoke Mandeville hospital north of the capital.

Butterworth is one of a number of injured servicemen and veterans to go through the Ministry of Defence's Battle Back rehabilitation program, 14 of whom have gone on to represent their country, but he is probably the best placed to make the team where only a podium place, preferably gold, is good enough.

His analytical skills, which he used in his job in the RAF, have also helped propel him to the top of his sport, along with a great physical and mental strength.

When shrapnel tore his left arm to pieces he had to apply his own tourniquet or face the prospect of bleeding to death.

"The blood was pouring out," he told Reuters in a matter-of-fact way, the shiny black prosthetic arm resting on his blue tracksuit trouser leg.   Continued...