Olympics countdown: Paralympic soldier Nick Beighton's incredible story
PUBLISHED: 00:16 29 January 2012 | UPDATED: 12:08 28 February 2013
If you were putting together a modern day superhero, Nick Beighton from Shrewsbury would tick all the boxes ...
Shropshire has a special and magical connection with the Olympics. William Penny Brookes, a humble Doctor from Much Wenlock, is now widely hailed as a founder of the modern Games. WP Brookes role in establishing the Wenlock Olympian Games over 120 years ago, and subsequently persuading others of the virtues of an international version, is undoubted - nonetheless, it has still been a staggering public relations coup for this little town to have successfully staked its claim as the birthplace of the biggest sporting celebration on Earth.
The London 2012 mascot Wenlock has been named in honour of the link, and residents have enjoyed a flurry of visits by sporting icons, including Lord Coe and, more recently, Jonathan Edwards, newly installed president of the Wenlock Olympian Society. Edwards, a veteran of four Games and holder of Gold and Silver medals for the triple jump, aptly put it thus in a Shropshire Life interview last month: Every Olympic athlete owes Much Wenlock a debt of thanks.
Its not just in Much Wenlock that the Olympic connection will be celebrated. Towns across Shropshire will welcome the Olympic flame as it zigzags across the county in June en route to London, carried by people from all walks of life. The Merrythought teddy factory at Ironbridge is the official and sole producer of the Olympic 2012 teddy - only 2012 of them have been made to celebrate the London Games.
Then of course there are the athletes taking part in both elements of the Games. All of them have a story to tell - and over the coming months we will make sure you know exactly which of our homegrown stars to cheer.
We open our series this month with a special feature about one of the athletes hoping hes done enough to secure a place at the Paralympics: Nick Beighton. Read his story overleaf.
If you have an Olympics memory to share, want to tell us about your familys connections to the Games, or have a business with an Olympics link, please drop us a line. We cant wait to share your Olympics stories with the rest of the county.
Contact Jane Haynes, Editor, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by post: Olympics Connections, Shropshire Life, c/o Archant Life, Archant House, Oriel Road, Cheltenham GL50 1BB
If you were putting together a modern day superhero, Nick Beighton from Shrewsbury would tick all the boxes.
This bright, articulate, warm, determined, handsome Army Captain with a cheeky grin is a real all round actionman. He has served with distinction in the forces and ridden, snowboarded, skied, rock-climbed and ran all over the world.
This summer, barring injury or a dramatic loss of form, Nick will be part of Team GBs rowing team at London 2012.
Two years ago, though, Nicks seemingly smooth trajectory through life was thrown into chaos.
While on patrol in Afghanistan, leading a troop through a war zone in the Helmand province, Nick stepped on a landmine. In the split second of violent explosion, his legs were destroyed.
His life almost went too. It was touch and go, definitely. I didnt think about dying though, that just wasnt going to happen.
Recalling that day, Nick says: I was treated on the ground by members of my patrol in those few minutes straight after the blast my life was in real danger. Luckily an Army medic was not far away and he managed to provide a high level of care, stopping the blood flow and protecting me from going into severe shock.
I was fully conscious for about 45 minutes. It was terrifying but the medic kept me talking. I was aware things were not looking good but I did not think about dying. Maybe thats me being pigheaded!
I was then unconscious for 10 to 12 days while I was stabilised at Camp Bastion. All I recall from this time was really vivid nightmares and bad dreams about the incident.
Then I was flown back to the UK, but developed a pulmonary embolism which caused my lung to collapse so it was some time before I was out of danger. Then really that was when the hard work started for me.
Nick was treated at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, the renowned centre for excellence which treats many returning servicemen who have severe injuries like his: they had already had plenty of practice, sadly
He then embarked on a long period of rehab at Headley Court, the defence medical rehabilitation centre in Surrey, before returning to his Army life.
It was a time for soul searching and working out what is going to come next. It was never an option for me to give in but I needed time to work things out. Everyone copes differently but for me I did not feel that I was a changed person, except physically. If anything it has accentuated my nature and characteristics I push myself harder and faster, and enjoy challenging myself and seeing how far I can go.
Ive always been determined and do not give in.
Of course I am changed physically as a result of what has happened but yet Im still the same person.
Nick had moved from Stockport to Shrewsbury aged 7, attending Radbrook Green Primary and Meole Brace Schools before going to Shrewsbury Sixth Form College. He then went to Sheffield University, went on a world tour with his girlfriend Alexis before taking up his Army training post at Sandhurst, where he graduated with flying colours.
He has been with partner Alexis, herself a former Army captain who is now retraining as a physiotherapist, for several years and regularly comes home to Shrewsbury to spend time with mum Sue, still living in Radbrook.
Before his injuries, Nick was a superfit soldier, playing rugby, fell running regularly, climbing mountains and cliff faces and skiing to a high standard.
Now he has mastered his prosthetic legs, he is determined to get back to all those activities again.
I have different legs for every activity I put on a new pair of legs for running, climbing, snowboarding, just like I used to put on different shoes.
Along the way Nick has also discovered rowing or rather, the Team GB rowing coaches discovered him.
Because I was previously 6 ft 7 ins and had the right build and reach, somebody had the bright idea of me trying out as a rower.
Encouraged by the Army, who have allowed him to devote himself full time to training in the run up to the Olympics, Nick has enjoyed an incredible vault through rowings ranks. He and his rowing partner Samantha Scowen, pictured with him below, became the first members of GB Rowing to book a place at the Paralympics, in the Trunk and Arms mixed double sculls.
Barring an unforseen disaster, they will be in the boat together.
The rowing has given me a new physical goal. Its hard work but an immense challenge and it will be a privilege if I make it into the Team GB boat.
It is a once in a lifetime opportunity but until Im absolutely sure Ill be in the boat I dont want to get too carried away with talk of medals.
I have been extremely proud to serve my country in the Army; I will be so proud to represent my country at the Olympic Games.
And Shropshire is so very proud of you, Nick.