Marl­bor­ough pair on tar­get for In­vic­tus Games

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - JAMIE SMALL

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

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Army Staff Sergeant Nick Mar­fell lost the hear­ing in one ear, and suf­fers from se­vere tini­tus.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Air Force Flight Lieu­tenant Jules Gil­li­gan.

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