‘Invictus spirit’ helped Poppy rebuild her life

PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 October 2018

Poppy Pawsey at the Invictus Games in Toronto last year. Picture: Contributed

Poppy Pawsey at the Invictus Games in Toronto last year. Picture: Contributed


Poppy hopes her story will inspire others to overcome illness or injury, and turn their lives around

A former Lympstone-based Royal Marines bandswoman is competing in the Invictus Games for the second time, after overcoming injury and depression.

Poppy Pawsey won bronze for swimming last year and is competing in the swimming, sailing, archery and powerlifting events in this year’s Games in Sydney, which start on Saturday October 20.

Yet in March 2017 she had been feeling that her world had collapsed, after suffering a hip and back injury caused by marching, She was medically discharged and remained in Exmouth, struggling to cope with civilian life, in pain and taking anti-depressants.

Then, a Help for Heroes adviser told Polly she was eligible for selection for the 2017 Invictus Games. She entered four swimming events, and also took up archery. To her joy, she was selected.

“It was the most incredible week for me in the sense of personal growth, and coming third in the 100m freestyle - I will never, ever forget that moment,” she said. “I remember slamming the water with my fist and just screaming, and I got out of the pool and someone from the team grabbed me and I probably cried for about 40 minutes,” she said.

It was the Invictus spirit of team support and encouragement to overcome adversity that made a lasting impression on Poppy.

“All the people at that poolside, they wanted me to do so well and they believed in me, even though they hadn’t known me very long,” she said.

“From that moment life has opened up and opportunities have arisen and I’ve tried to take everything with an open mind and an open heart, and just go for it, really.”

So much so that Poppy is taking a one-way trip to Sydney. After the Games she plans to stay in Australia, where she lived as a child, and find work in sailing and watersports.

She hopes her story will give hope to others who are going through tough times.

“I would say, be kind to yourself because it’s OK to feel that way. Try to get out of the house and meet new people and become active again, and you’ll start getting back your identity, the inner strength and the physical strength you’ve lost.

“Lean on people around you and ask for help, yes it’s hard, it’s a big step forward, but once you do it those opportunities will open up for you and life gets easier.”

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