An Army veteran from Melton Mowbray says wheelchair rugby has given him a purpose in life again after losing both his legs and four fingertips in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.
Tom Folwell plays for the Help for Heroes’ team which was undefeated in its first competitive season and promoted to the Championship of the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby league.
He also competes for the Leicester Tigers and captained both Team UK’s Wheelchair Rugby and Wheelchair Basketball teams at the Invictus Games in The Hague.
Tom, 38, was on foot patrol in Helmand Province in 2012 when he stood on an IED causing life-changing injuries and the end of his career. His recovery has been a long process, including several operations for the former soldier who served with the Royal Engineers for 12 years.
“I’m proud to represent Help for Heroes, I really enjoy being around other veterans as we have the same mindset,” said Tom who featured in Netflix’s recent Heart of Invictus’ documentary series.
“I really enjoy being around other veterans as we have the same mindset. Wheelchair rugby can be very tactical, and I enjoy that part of the game, it has given me back my sense of purpose. I’m looking forward to next season when the aim will be to get another promotion.”
“Sport is a massive part of the recovery process, along with things like education, training and employment. Help for Heroes provides a safe environment to play sport, in which I can be myself,” Tom said.
The International Wheelchair Rugby World Cup starts this week in Paris which, for the first time, is being held at the same time as the Rugby World Cup.
The military charity has produced a new range of ‘I’d Rather Be Watching Rugby’ t-shirts which are modelled by members of its Help for Heroes squad, including Tom who now lives in Horncastle, Lincolnshire.
It is encouraging members of the Armed Forces community to get involved in its wheelchair rugby taster sessions and friendly tournaments. There are also opportunities to learn how to coach others through its Coaching Academy.
Tom added: “I’d recommend people give wheelchair rugby a go. Some are put off because they think the knocks are too hard. But the chairs take most of the knocks. And plus, it’s part of the fun.”