Bury St Edmunds cousins Alex and Matt Tate return from 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney with offers from Paralympic selectors
Bury St Edmunds cousins Alex and Matt Tate have returned from the 2018 Invictus Games triumphant this week after catching the keen eyes of Team GB selectors.
The global event, in Sydney, showcased the athletic skills of the former British Army privates to the world, and both have now been asked to trial for Paralympic programmes.
Alex, 28, who was the very first Invictus Games gold medallist at the inaugural event in 2014, brought back a ‘full set’ of medals with a gold in the long jump, a silver in the 4x100m relay and a bronze in the IT1100m.
“It was incredible, it’s come a long way since the first event,” he said. “Competing in front of 11,000 people in a packed stadium was amazing, the atmosphere was so great.
“It’s given us both a lot of opportunities, and been massive in the recovery process.”
Meanwhile, Matt, 26, pulled off a competition personal best in the midweight IP5 Powerlifting as he lifted 132kg, against a field 11kg heavier.
He said it was ‘surreal’ to think back to the experience of an international sporting event.
“Hearing your name called out in front of people all there to watch you compete is just amazing,” he said.
“You get a massive buzz off it, there’s a big comedown afterwards actually. It leaves you wanting more.”
Both performances caught the interest of Team GB Paralympic selectors, who have stepped in to see if Alex would be interested in pursuing a snow sports event in the Winter Paralympics and Matt to see if he could earn a place in the powerlifting squad.
They are both ‘delighted’ with the development and are keen to pursue careers in professional sport as they look forward to a ‘bright future’.
But the road to the Sydney event was not always smooth for the young men, with both recovering mentally and physically from the impact of being injured in their tours of Afghanistan.
Alex lost his left leg in 2012 after being struck by an improvised explosive device, while Matt suffered permanent nerve damage in the attack, which inflicted lower-body injuries that left him unable to run.
But it is the mental scars that continue to plague their recovery, as they work to overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and social anxiety.
It led to Alex making an attempt on his life just months ago, despite the upcoming Games.
Alex competed at the first games soon after his discharge from the army, with his recovery well on the way as he transitioned to the professional life of an athlete.
But he had continual problems with the stump of his amputated leg which forced him to undergo further surgery, stalling his professional ambitions and seeing him back in the recovery process.
It has proved difficult for him, as he struggled with social anxiety, pain and the feeling of going backwards.
“I missed my own parents’ wedding anniversary,” he said.
“The anxiety got that bad and my mental health was just in a really bad place.
“I was battling everyday and I made an attempt on my life. I can’t emphasis how important the NHS have been in helping me turn my life around after this, their support has got me this far.”
He has been accessing the mental health services of the Wedgewood Unit at West Suffolk Hospital and wanted to thank staff for their support through a dark period.
Returning from these games with his medals has helped Alex start to draw a line under it and look ahead to a bright future with a Paralympic career dangling in front of him.
“It’s an ongoing process,” he said. “But I’m really pleased with how I did and I’m looking forward to getting involved with the Winter Paralympics team.”
Matt agreed, as he said the Invictus Games had been the ‘springboard’ he needed for the rest of his life.
“It was a springboard, a stepping stone to build up the drive and motivation to push forward,” he said. “And it’s exciting too, I’ve still got nine years until I’m at the average prime age for powerlifting.”
“We’ve got the taste of it now,” Alex added. “Chasing golds is now my goal.”
The UK partnership consisting of Help for Heroes, the Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion, will be delivering a series of events leading up to a multi-sport, multi-day event in Sheffield in July 2019.
It will include Team UK’s Trials for the next Invictus Games in The Hague in May 2020.