Navy's Olympic Rowing Champion Helps Raise Thousands In Charity Challenge

Royal Navy Olympic rowing champion Lieutenant Commander Pete Reed has helped raise thousands of pounds in a charity challenge.

The triple Olympic gold medal winner suffered a spinal stroke in 2019, which left him paralysed, and has been in rehabilitation since.

Recently, his team of 'Paravengers' completed the 'Race the Thames' - covering the 346km distance of the river. 

The team of eight included many undergoing rehab, alongside Lt Cdr Reed, at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough.

They joined 82 other teams as part of the challenge and completed their kilometres on treadmills, static rowers and in wheelchairs.

Sergeant Alfie Pope and Senior Aircraftman Stacey Mitchell, both below-the-knee amputees, were part of the team.

Their fundraising target was £5,000 but as it stands, have raised more than £6,000 for London Youth Rowing and Blesma, a charity that helps serving and ex-service personnel who have lost limbs or the use of their limbs.

Speaking about the challenge, Lt Cdr Reed told Forces News: "Racing the Thames – it's a long old way!

"I was even speaking to the doctors and the PTIs [physical training instructiors] asking, 'do you think this is on for all of these patients?'

"They chose how they were going to do the mileage and broke it up into healthy chunks.

"They did what they said they were going to do. Of course, they did. They're military."

Lieutenant Commander Pete Reed's Olympic Gold medals won at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Lieutenant Commander Pete Reed's Olympic Gold medals won at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Former Great Britain rowing champion Andy Hodge was a major part of Lt Cdr Reed getting involved in the project.

Lt Cdr Reed said: "I hadn't been in a crew with him since our efforts in Rio in 2016 and he's a close friend.

"He reached out a few months ago and said 'would I like to support it?'

"He's done a lot for me over the years and all of a sudden, we're back in a boat together.

"He chose to do the mileage in my spare wheelchair. I think he wants to show the able-bodied community a few things about what it is like to be in a wheelchair."

The British athlete, who was actually born in Seattle, Washington, and moved to the UK months later, also discussed his recovery from the spinal stroke.

He said: "I feel like I'm transitioning out of full-time rehab now and back into what feels like the rest of life.

"I'm in a wheelchair so I'm 18 inches shorter but I feel like myself again."

He was told by his consultant very early on that he wouldn't walk again.

"The consultant just dropped it into a conversation, free-flowing and natural. I thought 'hang on, back up a bit'.

"Never say never. I'll never give up on anything but I need to make sure that I have some realism with my natural optimism so I keep on top of what is possible.

"Normally it's two years of progress to get back what you're going to get back. I'll keep on working."

Lt Cdr Reed is also looking to the future and how he can help others in a similar situation to himself, saying: "One of those things I want to do is teach people with a spinal cord injury just how much there is to do in life.

"When you are lying in your hospital bed having just had a trauma, it feels like life is over and it really isn't.

"It can take a while to come back and a lot of hard work but a new life is just beginning. It's worth working for."