Pick-ed as Team GB flag bearer
When Owen Pick lines up for Team GB at the Winter Paralympics in the next few days, it will not be lost on him that he is lucky to be alive, let alone carry the flag for his country.
It was back in January 2010 while serving in Afghanistan that the former soldier stood on an improvised explosive device, one strong enough to have killed Pick and several of his comrades.
However, the device only partially detonated and while that ultimately saved his life, it still caused significant to damage to his right leg.
Eighteen months and several operations later, Pick — then aged 19 — took the tough decision to have the leg amputated below the knee.
It ended Pick’s dream career serving his country on the frontline, but rather than let that define him, the Barton Mills-based 26-year-old has instead found another way to represent his nation.
It was while laying in his hospital bed that Pick was first exposed to snowboarding on the television and he has not looked back.
The self-confessed adrenaline junkie has both taught and competed in the sport over recent years, culminating in him winning silver at the 2017 World Championships.
Now he has reached the pinnacle after an incredible journey, as he prepares to compete in the snowboard cross and banked slalom in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on March 12 and 16 respectively.
And prior to that Pick has been given the honour of leading Team GB out during today’s opening ceremony as flag bearer.
“Being in the army is all I dreamt about as a kid and I would love to be able to go back,” said the former Mildenhall College Academy student.
“But you have to make the best of bad situations and that is what I have done. I love what I am doing now — snowboarding is the closest thing to the army in terms of adrenaline.
“When I look back over the last eight years, it has been mind blowing.
“But I am super excited about what is coming up and proud of my achievements.
“To have got to the top of the sport in such a short space of time is amazing.”
Living in a small East Anglian village, Pick is at a big disadvantage compared to his fellow competitors.
Nevertheless, his rapid rise has seen him installed as one of the favourites to medal in the Far East — a billing he is determined to live up to.
“The amount of travelling and cost is crazy,” he added.
“Whereas, pretty much all of my competition open up their front door and there is a mountain in front of them.
“I get incredible help from sponsors that makes things a little easier, but everything still has to be paid for.
“It makes you more determined to do well. Being a snowboarder from Britain, you have to put everything in.
“What am I capable of? I want to do as well as I can, but I feel I can get a medal. What colour? I am not sure.”