Lee Aitchison is one of eight Help for Heroes athletes aiming for Paralympic success at a future games
I’ve just spent a life-changing 10 days in Sochi as part of the British Paralympic Association's Paralympic Inspiration Programme.
I am one of eight Help for Heroes athletes aiming for Paralympic success at a future games – invited to visit Sochi during the Paralympics to experience the atmosphere, procedures and pressure of the most famous international sports competition in the world.
In 2010 I ended up in a wheelchair after a training accident. A twisted ankle sustained on a military skills exercise developed into Complex Regional Pain Syndrome - a rare, progressive and incurable condition that causes extreme hypersensitivity.
After taking part in a skills test event at the Help for Heroes Tedworth House Recovery Centre in Wiltshire I was talent spotted for pistol shooting and got picked to visit the Winter Olympics.
Help for Heroes has given me funding towards an air pistol and they are contributiing towards the cost of my regular trips to Stoke Mandeville where my coach is based
While in Sochi I attended the opening and closing ceremonies, visited the Paralympic Athlete Village, met with the Paralympics GB team and senior members of the International Paralympic Committee and British Paralympic Association, as well as taking part in educational lectures.
It was absolutely amazing and definitely gave me a better insight into what I need to do in order to make the 2016 GB pistol shooting team.
While there I spent time with multi-medal winner Jade Etherington, who herself was part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme during London 2012, and watched history being made when Kelly Gallagher won GB’s first ever gold medal on snow.
Shooting is less physical than other sports but there is a lot of mental pressure and speaking to the professionals and athletes at the Winter Paralympics taught me how better to prepare myself and to deal with that pressure.
Help for Heroes has given me funding towards an air pistol and they are contributiing towards the cost of my regular trips to Stoke Mandeville where my coach is based.
The charity has helped in other ways too. When I was refused permission to adapt my home in Kelty to make it easier for wheelchair use, the Scottish organisation Houses for Heroes (formerly the Scottish Veterans’ Garden City Association) found my family – wife Linda and three daughters Danika (six), Melissa (five) and Hope (21 months) – a bungalow close to the centre of Airdrie.
My shooting needs to be regularly achieving the minimum qualifying score. My score is still short – not by a lot – but I have to be reaching it consistently and that’s what I will be working on for the rest of this year. But I will make it.