A former Royal Engineer from Andover will be swapping the front line for the basketball court as captain of the UK wheelchair basketball team at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida in May.
Simon Gibbs, who’s 37, lost his leg in a motorbike accident in 2006, when he was only 27. But he entered a new, somewhat unexpected, stage in his life when he discovered the frantic, fast-moving sport and made it a major focus.
“Part of the rehabilitation process was to take up a sport. I’ve always been a sporty person but it was basketball that really jumped at me. After six months I was hooked,” he said.
Since then Simon has played wheelchair basketball in the UK for the London Titans and Milton Keynes Aces. He also played internationally for three years with France Le Cannet, with whom he won the French Cup, the league and Euro cup – twice.
But this May will be his first Invictus Games, the Paralympic-style event for people from a military background, which was first held two years ago. And he’s thrilled to be going as captain.
“I’m massively proud to be part of this year’s games. Alongside the sport, there is the honour of representing the army, and it’s so great being amongst some amazing people. I’m humbled,” said Simon.
To prepare for the event, Simon has been working hard in the gym at Andover Leisure Centre with help and support from the Valley Leisure team.
Al Darmanin from Andover Leisure Centre said: “Simon is a true inspiration to us all. His determination proves that even in the toughest of situations, you can turn things around. We’re delighted to support and encourage him anyway we can. We’ll all be following his progress through the competition in May.”
Simon believes that people with disabilities can achieve amazing things despite their challenges.
“If I had any tips, it would be that you need to push yourself to believe that you can do it…you can be an elite athlete,” he said.
The Invictus Games harnesses the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and to generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick service men and women.
This year’s games will run from 8 to 12 May.