Sport

RAF Veteran Hopes For Second Invictus Gold... Two Years After Picking Up Bow

An RAF veteran is hoping to don the Team UK Invictus Games jersey for a second time this year, despite having only taken up his chosen sport...

An RAF veteran is hoping to don the Team UK Invictus Games jersey for a second time this year, despite having only taken up his chosen sport 18 months ago.

Former Senior Aircraftman Matthew Neve, who won archery gold in Toronto, Canada in 2017, told Forces Network:

"The Invictus [Games] just give you that sense of pride and worth, to be able to represent the UK again."

The medal, which came around a year after he took up the sport, was a long way from the dark days that came following his medical discharge in 2004.

His role as a driver in Iraq during Operation Telic I saw him loading injured servicemen and women onto military aircraft for repatriation.

The work took its toll on his mental health, leaving him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He says:

"I didn't talk about it, I didn't accept that I had something wrong with me. I was an angry person."

"I would lose my temper very easily. I was constantly down. I was suicidal.

The RAF Benevolent Fund and Help for Heroes have played an active role in his recovery, along with the crucial support of his family. He says:

"My wife didn't know how to cope with me at the time and it's only been through years of learning to cope with it [mental illness] and manage with it - and my wife getting a better understanding of what's going on - that we've been able to get through the really tough times." 

 

For the Invictus trials this year, Matt is adding powerlifting, shotput and discus to his programme, making sure his recovery continues to reap rewards through sport. He says:

"The difference that it's made in me over the last 18-19 months since I've been doing sport is massive... It gives me something to work towards, strive towards.

"Archery is a way to go and switch off, forget everything else that's going on around me.

"Any tension that I've got built up within me goes with that arrow down into the target. It's a great feeling."

"If I'm ever frustrated or down I can just go up to the archery range, pick up a bow and release it all there."

The Invictus Games this year are being held in Sydney, Australia.

Selection trials will take place later this week for the 11 sports being contested, with the final team announced in May.

There's already been recognition of his achievements and how far he has come, however, in his nomination for a Soldiering On Awards honour.

Looking further ahead, Matt says he would love to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

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