Invictus Games is the goal for veterans helping poppy appeal

A Hawick man is already part of a specialist team which performs superhuman feats by producing millions of 
poppies each year for the 
annual Scottish Poppy Appeal.

Kirsteen McGrory (left) and Mhairi Middleton (right).
Kirsteen McGrory (left) and Mhairi Middleton (right).

And, on the day that around five million of the iconic symbols of remembrance begin their journey across Scotland in preparation for raising vital funds for leading Armed Forces charity Poppyscotland, Alastair Skene revealed his quest to reach next year’s Invictus Games.

Along with Fraser Rowand, another veteran at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory, Alastair (39) will be bidding to join 500 fellow qualifiers from 19 nations for the 2020 Invictus Games, in The Hague, where wounded military veterans compete in a Paralympic-style event.

Alastair is a former Lance Corporal in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

Alistair Skene of Hawick

He is focusing on archery, having being referred at the start of the year to a club in Edinburgh where fellow veterans take part.

He said: “Before I took unwell, I used to play a lot of sport and missed that. So it was great when I started to take part in archery once a week. It brought back a bit of excitement and that feeling of adrenalin, and I was surprised that I took to it very quickly.

“I got involved with the Invictus Games by accident after some of the guys in the factory mentioned it, and I looked into it.

“I thought it was something I would like to do but said to myself ‘this competition is too big for me.’ However, I went for it and got my application in, and was surprised when I got an email inviting me to take part in the trials.

“It was nerve-wracking at the trials in Sheffield, but the fact I was competing gave me a real buzz. It was great to meet other veterans from all over the UK and to hear about the same sorts of problems and issues I’ve gone through since leaving the Army.”

Alastair is now playing the waiting game to find out if he will be invited to compete at the Games proper. He added: “Every day, you are looking at the calendar knowing it’s one day closer to finding out if you’ve made it. But, for me, it’s not just about being selected – it’s about progressing in your chosen sport and the best thing for me is that, every week, I am getting better.”

Next year’s Invictus Games will be the fifth staging of the event, which has previously been held in London, Orlando, Toronto and Sydney.

Meanwhile, more than 900 riders took to the roads and hills of East Lothian recentlty as part of the annual Poppyscotland Sportive cycling event, which will ultimately help to raise tens of thousands of pounds for Poppyscotland.

Among the riders were a pair of full-time mums who had travelled up from Lauder to take part.

Kirsteen McGrory (45) and Mhairi Middleton (41) tackled the short route of 47 miles, saying: “We’re not cyclists – we’ve never done anything like this before. But part of the appeal was that it’s for Poppyscotland. Mhairi is raising money for the cause, while Kirsteen has donated.