Marlborough pair on target for Invictus Games
Nick Marfell had just come off guard duty in Afghanistan when his body armour knocked against his head.
It should have barely injured him, but for some reason it left Marfell completely deaf in one ear.
The hearing went almost instantly, replaced by a ringing sound that could be debilitating at times.
Doctors were at a loss to explain what happened, but said it could be related to a viral infection or previous damage from an noisy ambush in East Timor years earlier.
Focusing his mind helped the Staff Sergeant keep the ringing sound at bay, he said.
‘‘That’s where Invictus came in.’’
Marfell is one of two Marlborough athletes to represent the New Zealand Defence Force at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada later this month.
The Invictus Games is an international sporting event for wounded, injured and ill service members and veterans.
The Blenheim man will play golf, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball. Air Force Flight Lieutenant Jules Gilligan, of Picton, will compete in powerlifting, swimming and rowing.
New Zealand is sending 24 athletes to compete in 12 events.
Marfell competed in shot put, discus, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball at the Games in Orlando, Florida last year.
‘‘It’s just like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The Americans obviously do everything bigger and better.’’
He said it was like a ‘‘mini Olympics’’, with opening and closing ceremonies, and big name music acts.
‘‘[There were] a lot of people a lot worse off than me competing and getting back to some sort of normality, I guess.’’
The rules of wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball mean there has to be a mixture of disabilities on the field.
The athletes who were fulltime wheelchair users usually had an advantage, Marfell said.
‘‘Those guys are amazing.’’
Golf – a game he played growing up – is Marfell’s main focus at the 2017 Games; it wasn’t available last year.
‘‘I joined the army as a young 19-year-old, and basically haven’t played golf the last 24 years.’’
He has been a regular on the golf course near his base at Burnham Camp, and said his handicap was improving nearly every time he went out.
‘‘Hopefully I can do quite well over there.’’
Gilligan will compete in the Games for the first time this year.
‘‘To be become ill or injured is difficult for anyone,’’ she said.
‘‘I really did expect my life to go back to what it was. It has been difficult to deal with the realisation that I amnot able to perform to the same standard that I was, pre-illness.’’
Gilligan has been through breast cancer, and suffered a severe wrist injury.
‘‘The want to do ‘all that I joined up for’ remains. Competing in Invictus gives me an opportunity to regain some of what I have lost.’’
The Invictus Games run from September 23 to September 30. pretty
Army Staff Sergeant Nick Marfell lost the hearing in one ear, and suffers from severe tinitus.
Air Force Flight Lieutenant Jules Gilligan.