Sport

Derek Derenalagi: The Veteran Aiming For Invictus And Paralympics Success

The former soldier lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2007 and went on to finish fifth in the London 2012 Paralympics discus event.

More than 500 injured, sick and wounded service personnel will be taking part in Invictus trials in Sheffield later this month, with just 65 places available for the UK team for the competition in the Hague next year.

Among them is former soldier Derek Derenalagi, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2007 and finished fifth in the London 2012 Paralympics discus.

Derek is heading to the trials in Sheffield hoping to win a place in the UK team and is also aiming to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics.

He says missing out on team selection is often one of the biggest issues for athletes. 

"Previous Invictus Games I've competed in all the trials, starting from 2014, 2016, 2017 and last year as well in Australia but I didn't make it.

"It was frustrating and disappointing, but you just have to keep on going, and that's what I did.

"That's one of the things that veterans go through, that for me, not only the physical side but the mental side as well - the trauma.

"If someone is not selected it can really hit them very very hard and can be depressing as well, at times.

Invictus Games 2018 hopeful Derek Derenalagi

"I had a couple of years' break from competing and training as well, but I'm looking forward to the trials, and hopefully I'll be one of the lucky ones."

Derek says there are not quite as many places available on the team as before.

"For the selection criteria for the Invictus Games, the numbers are getting smaller compared to when it started back in 2014 in London.

"It just shows the amount of injured servicemen getting involved in sports.

"The main reason behind it is to get over the trauma whether physical or mental from whichever place they've served.

"For the UK team, it's very competitive, and that's why I believe that the numbers are getting smaller as well.

Having competed in numerous different events in the past, Derek explains his role: "This time, all athletes are allowed to compete in one event, whether you have trials, whether you have competed in, or are looking forward to competing in other events.

"We've just been given an event to compete in.

"For me, I will be competing in shot put, because shot put will be the event that I'll be trying to compete in next year's Paralympics Games in Tokyo.

"The main reason behind it is because there are a lot of athletes who've applied to do the trials, or to put their names forward to be selected for the Invictus Games.

"My goal is to compete in next year's Paralympics Games in Tokyo, so I'll use the Invictus Games as my platform to gauge my performance going to the future.

"It's something that I look forward to, and then I'll be doing that in the next two years as long as my body will take the pressure of training.

"None of us are getting any younger. I think every athlete wants to compete as long as they can, but one thing that stops them is age that is catching up.

"I am in my forties, mid-forties now, but I know that I can still offer something back to disability sports, but only time will tell."