Skiggle ambassador makes his Invictus Games debut!

Caption: Skiggle ambassador, Mark Clougherty wearing his Invictus Games GB jersey

There’s a lot of excitement as Skiggle ambassador, Mark Clougherty makes his Invictus Games debut this week…

This weekend (17th April 2022) sees the start of the Invictus Games in The Hague in the Netherlands. Postponed from 2020, the Games, founded by Prince Harry, is an international sport event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women – both serving and veteran. More than 500 competitors from over 20 nations will be taking part in a series of adaptive sports including Skiggle ambassador, Mark Clougherty.

Mark is part of the 59-strong Team UK and will be taking part in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 1,500m wheelchair athletics, the crit (criterium) race and time trials on the handbike, and the individual indoor rowing.

With his wife, daughter, and mum all making up part of his support team, Mark’s first event will be the Athletics Heats on track on Sunday 17th April. It’ll no doubt be an emotional week for everyone involved with Team UK and all the hugely proud family and friends supporting the athletes.

We caught up with Mark before his journey to the Games to find out how he’s feeling and what it means to be one of the select few competing in the special event:

He said: “The Invictus Games are meant to be part of a recovery journey, so just going to the Games is a real stepping stone to something else. I applied to take part to get back into a team environment. All my life I’ve been doing team sports and when you’re in the Army, you’re always part of a team. So, it’s difficult to lose that when you come out of the Army.

“The two postponements of the Games were mentally tough to take. We all thought it was going to be hard waiting 15 months when it was postponed in 2020, but then it was postponed again in 2021. Every year I like to give myself a different target, something to keep me focused. I always say to other people…if you’ve got a focus and you’ve got something you can attach yourself to, there’s no reason not to live with the conditions you’ve got. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Just believe there’s something to focus on and give yourself a goal to achieve.

Training for the Invictus Games with Disability Northern Ireland

After contracting Covid at the start of last year, followed closely by the second cancellation of the Games, it took Mark some time to get back into training again. It was the taster sessions organised by Athletics Northern Ireland (Para Athletics), that got him back into training and firmly focused on the Games again.

He said: “I had butterflies in my stomach before that first session, but since September I’ve been taking part in five training sessions a week combining strength and conditioning training, weight training, and plyometric training with wheelchair and handbike on the track. I’m training with someone who has won bronze at the Commonwealth Games and a junior world champion. We’re a community and I’m part of a team again with lots of good friendly banter!

“Invictus Team UK got back together again in November and since then I’ve been to three training camps – two in Loughborough and the final one, run as competition format, at London’s Brunel University just a few weeks ago. A second spell of Covid in March delayed my training a little, so I’d love to say I wish I had another six months! Mentally, you’re always wondering where you’ll be with more training, but I’m the strongest I’ve ever been achieving personal bests on track and with bench pressing. I’ve even managed to press my body weight, which I’d never come close to before.

The Invictus Games - a great team event

It’s great to be in an environment where everyone is the same”, adds Mark. “No one judges you. You don’t need to worry about how you perform. Everyone works together with the same goal and that’s to go out to the Games and be the best version of themselves.

“It’s massive to feel part of a team again. That’s what life was in the Army, you’re all in the same kit and you worked together and did the job. It’s something that’s not quite hit home that I’m going to be wearing a Union Jack at an international sporting event. It will make me so proud. But for me, the main thing is competing for my family, they’re my priority.

You can watch highlights of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020 weekdays on BBC One starting from Sunday 17th April at 4.20pm.

Good luck Mark from everyone at Team Skiggle! #IG22

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