Hero Joe sets sights on Paralympic spot

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JOE Townsend has set his sights on competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil – after completing his first triathlon last Sunday (June 26).

The Hankham-based 23-year-old Royal Marine, who lost both his legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan three years ago, finished the 70-mile Cotswold 113 event in five hours and 32 minutes.

Joe was one of around 350 competitors, including injured military personnel, in the triathlon which started in the Cotswold Country Park and Beach in Cirencester.

He was helped from the swimming stage on to his specially-adapted hand cycle by Mark Airey, an exercise instructor from Headley Court, where Joe has been receiving rehabilitation since his life-changing injuries.

After completing the gruelling challenege, Joe said, “This was my first triathlon and it felt brilliant to take part.

“I aim to compete in the IronmanUK Challenge in July and participate in the 2016 Paralympics as a triathlete.”

Help For Heroes, which raises money for injured service personnel, put out its Team True Spirit relay squads, which aims to highlight the work of Headley Court’s serious injuries clinic. They raised around £1,000 from the triathlon.

The event also raised around £2,500 for dEBra, a charity for so-called ‘butterfly children’, who have the rare genetic condition Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (DEB) which causes skin fragility and blistering.

Event organiser Graeme Hardie said, “We are very grateful to the support from Watermark and Waterland Outdoor Pursuits.

“I chose dEBra because my 11-year-old nephew, Bradley Puschnik, has the condition and was amazed at the true grit of Team True Spirit, which is gearing up for the IronmanUK challenge later this year.”

Cotswold Country Park and Beach spokesman Will Gibney added, “We were delighted to host the Cotswold113 triathlon and help such worthwhile charities.”