Invictus Games: Behind-the-scenes with Michelle Turner, Vice-Captain of Team UK

Last week, Speedo announced its exciting new partnership with Team UK for the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 presented by Jaguar Land Rover.

The Games will see 500 competitors, from 18 countries, compete in 11 medal sports, with Speedo supporting the UK swimming team. When the team came to train with us at our Pentland HQ in August, we talked to them to learn more about the 20 swimmers selected from the 72-strong Team UK.

We spoke to team vice-captain, Michelle Turner, a dedicated mum and veteran who served in the military for 21 years.  Michelle is keen to lead her team to victory – whatever that means for them as individuals – in Sydney next month.

“People’s legs don’t grow back, I don’t stop collapsing, but it makes you think: ‘Do you know what, I might fall on the floor right now, but at least I was there, at least I’m not that mummy sat on the sofa any more’”.

Tell us about how you got to the Invictus Games

“My journey to competing in the Invictus Games started when I was in hospital. I have a heart condition that I developed whilst deployed. A nasty bug left me with postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), which means that my heart rate fires up randomly. It goes to over 200bpm and I just fall over. At the time, I decided to just be a mum who would stay at home, because I was scared of waking up on the floor in public.

“I was in hospital when I received an email about the Invictus Games and thought, ‘I could never do that’. My husband put his hand on my bedsheet and he just said, ‘please, Michelle, we’re losing you’. I’d had over 50 collapses at that point, and that finally gave me the confidence to go to the first camp.

“I absolutely loved it! I was with military people again and I got my confidence back. Even with training camps and recovery through sport, people’s legs don’t grow back, I don’t stop collapsing, but it makes you think: ‘Do you know what, I might fall on the floor right now, but at least I was there, at least I’m not that mummy sat on the sofa any more’”.

What’s been your biggest challenge so far?

“During the Invictus trials for Toronto, at first, I chose indoor rowing because it’s close to the ground, and if anything happened to me I wouldn’t hurt myself that much. They asked if I would try out swimming, and I thought ‘Are you stupid? I can’t go in the water!’ They promised to keep me safe, so I went to the trials. I remember walking up to the blocks, so scared, but they told me ‘If you don’t get in that water now, you’re never going to!

“So, I put my goggles on and just hoped for the best. I dove in, got about three quarters of the way there, and I couldn’t see much because my goggles had filled with tears! I looked up and the whole place erupted.  I looked at my husband, who was walking down the side, and he was crying. I thought ‘what on earth’s happened?’. Everyone else had finished, but the rip-roaring cheers were for me to get to the end, and I did!

“I’d swam 50m which I thought I’d never do again. I got a phone call two weeks later to ask if I’d be in Team UK. That was the main thing I overcame: the fear that something could happen to me in the water.”

What does it mean to you to be at the Invictus Games?

“I have a little girl who saved my life by dialing 999, and I want to be a role model for her – not of a mum who stays at home and is scared – but of somebody who never gives up. Being able to make my daughter proud of me again is everything.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to compete at the Invictus Games?

“The one piece of advice I would give is to never give up. Nobody’s life goes to plan. Two years ago, I never expected to be in this position and doing what I am, no one expects to be here. To be vice-captain means so much to me because now I can pass on everything I learned last year and make sure that these amazing guys have the best time and can make the most of it.

“As a vice-captain you lead your team to victory, and here everybody’s victories are different. In this team, one person’s victory is just to walk out in the opening ceremony because of their anxiety. My victory is to get wet in a swimming pool! In Sydney I just want to get in that pool and that’s it.”

The UK Delegation to the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 is being delivered by a partnership between The Ministry of Defence, Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion. Help for Heroes selects, trains and delivers Team UK and we wish them all the best of luck as they travel to Sydney to compete in October.

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