'It's been incredible': Winnipegger takes bronze in golf at Invictus Games
Retired Cpl. Jayson Nickol says sports help injured veterans feel like they are part of the community
The 33-year-old retired corporal tied for bronze at the international sport event for wounded and sick soldiers, including current and veteran members of the forces, taking place in Toronto this week.
"Sports gets people back outside and makes you feel like a part of community and part of your friends and family," said Nickol, whose right femur was shattered in Afghanistan.
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In 2008, Nickol was trying to set up a police substation in Afghanistan when he came under fire and was surrounded by 20 to 30 Taliban fighters.
As the Canadian soldiers tried to push back to a more secure point, Nickol dove behind a wall.
"As I was diving to get onto, like, a little berm, I took a bullet through my right femur, completely shattering it," Nickol said.
"My whole life changed at that moment."
Nickol tried to kneel and his leg folded back behind him, making him worry it was gone. He crawled over to a foxhole and other soldiers got him to a safer area and, eventually, to a helicopter.
After multiple surgeries and an ongoing battle with post-traumatic stress disorder that's left him struggling to sleep, Nickol went out to his family cabin near the Falcon Lake Golf Course and decided it was time to give the clubs a swing.
"I golfed a lot when I was a kid with my grandfather and family. I actually quit golf sort of altogether when I joined the military for many years," he said.
With the help of crutches, Nickol started to golf again.
At the Invictus Games, Nickol has been inspired by other athletes who are overcoming the physical and mental scars of war. At least 550 competitors from 17 countries are competing in 12 sports at the Games.
"It's been incredible. The amount of energy coming out of the building every day — it's thrilling to be here and be a part of it every day," he said.
He has not met Prince Harry, who, after serving in Afghanistan, started the Games in 2014 as a way to inspire and motivate wounded soldiers on their paths to recovery, but Nickol said he is grateful for what the prince has done.
"[Prince Harry] saw the horrors of war and what it does to people and to step forward and create the Invictus Games for us is unreal," he said.
The Games run until Saturday.