Barton soldier badly injured serving his country now wants to represent it at Paralympics
An injured soldier from Barton who nearly lost his feet in a bomb blast in Afghanistan has taken up a daring winter sport.
Lance Bombardier Matthew Richardson, 26, was struck by a landmine while on patrol in Helmand Province in 2008.
Both of his feet were shattered by the blast and as a result he had to have reconstructive surgery to his left foot.
He was told this year he would be medically discharged from the Royal Artillery next month.
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Now Matthew has taken up skeleton – similar to bobsleigh – and enrolled in a programme called the Paralympic Inspiration Programme for aspiring Paralympic athletes.
He hopes to one day take part in a skeleton run event in the Winter Olympics – and claims to be one of the best in his discipline in the UK.
Matthew said: "Currently skeleton is not an official Paralympic sport, so we are just waiting for the go-ahead with that first.
"I love skeleton. When you go down the ice slope, you get a real adrenaline rush.
"The programme I have joined is helping inspire and prepare Parathletes to get involved in sport.
"It is a very exciting prospect and I am looking forward to the training process and the ceremony.
"This year I went out to Utah to start my skeleton training as there are no practice ice runs in the UK.
"I have also been to Austria and will be going to Canada later this year."
Matthew said when he first tried the sport, he found it difficult and sustained a lot of bruises.
He said: "It was hard and intense but great fun.
"I was told by the organisers I have a natural ability and I was finishing in fast times.
"I would never have got involved in the sport if I had not been injured so I have turned something negative into something positive.
"Soon after my accident I realised I would never be an active solider again.
"My feet really hurt and it kills me to walk.
"I do not know what job I can do next but I am very excited about the prospect of taking part in the winter games.
"Skeleton won't make the 2014 games, but I will aim to be part of the team for 2016.
"I have no job and will soon no longer be part of the Army, so joining the Paralympic Inspiration Programme has given me something to aim for."