Athletes in uniform: celebrating athletes with military backgrounds

The Paris Olympics 2024 is an eagerly anticipated event, set to take place from 26 July to 11 August 2024 in Paris, France. This international multi-sport event will bring together athletes from around the globe to compete in various sports, showcasing their talents and dedication on the world stage.

British Armed Forces personnel are encouraged to participate in sports. Sports practice enhances several skills, including perseverance, work ethic, self-discipline, and camaraderie. These are core skills essential for both athletic and military success. We have collated a list featuring 17 athletes who have served in the Armed Forces, some participating in the upcoming Olympics.

Kathrine Matthews

Army Captain Kat is a physiotherapist at Headley Court, aiding injured British servicemen and women. In 2018, she debuted as an amateur long-distance triathlon runner and won the Ironman 70.3 Calgary title.

Kerenza Bryson

Kerenza is a Maritime Troop Commander Reserve Officer in the 165 Port and Maritime RLC Regiment. The reservist is also a medal-winning modern pentathlete and the British Army Sportswoman of the Year in 2023. She accomplished all this while studying to become a doctor and serving in the Army Reserves.

Sam Curry

Sam is an Elite Sport Resilience Margin (REM) program Army lieutenant. In June 2023, he won bronze in the Modern Pentathlon mixed relay at the European Games in Poland.

Taylor Lawrence

Taylor served as a Royal Marine Commando from 2016 to 2019. He showcased his athletic abilities during his military career by winning the Navy Cup and the Virginia Gauntlet Trophy. When he left the Service, he transitioned to bobsleigh and debuted in the 2020 World Cup.

Stephen Cox

Stephen is an Army Lance Corporal and professional rower. He will be representing Zimbabwe in the upcoming 2024 Olympic games. The Army continues to support Stephen’s training and competition.

Gregg Stevenson

Gregg is a former Royal Engineer and Afghanistan veteran. Despite losing both legs in 2009, he pursued a career as a mental health practitioner. After transitioning to civilian life, he turned to rowing. He retired from the sport in 2018, but he made a triumphant return in 2022. Then Gregg went on to win back-to-back medals and retained his European title.

Jaco Van Gass MBE

Jaco was born in South Africa but moved to Britain when he was twenty to join the Armed Forces. He served in the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan when he sustained life-changing injuries. Jaco participated in a sports recovery programme and competed in cycling events. He won gold medals in many events at the 2020 Paralympics. In 2022, Jaco was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his contributions to cycling.

Dave Henson MBE

Dave joined the Army in 2008 and served with the Royal Engineers. During his tour of Afghanistan, he sustained life-altering injuries, which led to his discharge. As an athletic sprinter, Dave excelled in the Warrior and Paralympic Games. After obtaining his PhD, Dave now works in bioengineering, focusing on prosthetic technology. In 2014, he was appointed an MBE for his military service.

Dame Kelly Holmes (DBE)

Dame Kelly served in the Army for nearly a decade, rising to Sergeant. She became the British Army judo champion and impressively won the 800 meters, 3,000 meters, and a relay race at an athletics event in one day. As a military woman balancing her military career with athletics, she eventually dedicated herself entirely to sports. She is a double Olympic Gold medalist.

Micky Yule

Aged 17, Micky joined the Army, and in 2010, as a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Engineers, he served in Afghanistan. After his discharge, the Scottish-born Para-Powerlifter debuted at the 2016 Paralympics, finishing sixth. In 2020, Micky won a bronze medal with the best lift of 182 kg in Tokyo.

Jo Butterfield MBE

Former Army civil servant Jo excelled in wheelchair basketball before transitioning to athletics. Despite a shoulder injury, she won gold in the F51 club throw at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. In 2017, Jo was appointed MBE for her sporting career. She switched to wheelchair curling in 2022 and secured a bronze medal for Scotland at the 2023 World Championships.

Stuart Robinson MBE

After serving with his RAF Regiment on his fourth tour of Afghanistan, Stuart was seriously injured and left the military. In 2014, he debuted in wheelchair rugby. He went on to win a Bronze medal at the 2016 Invictus Games and gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Nick Beighton

Nick was injured while serving in Afghanistan with the Royal Engineers in 2009. After retiring from the military, Nick turned to sports. He competed at the 2012 Paralympic Games with the rowing team. He later transitioned to Para Canoe in 2014 and cycling in 2023.

Phil Eaglesham

Phil is an Irish-born Royal Marine Corporal veteran. In 2010, he served in Afghanistan and was diagnosed with Q Fever. After leaving the Armed Forces, Phil used his military capabilities to compete in sharpshooting events. He later joined the Ireland Shooting team and competed at the 2016 and 2020 Paralympic Games.

Jo Townsend

In 2008, while serving in Afghanistan, Royal Marine Commando Joe was injured. But his military career did not end, as he now serves as a strength and conditioning coach. Joe continued to represent his nation – but in the sporting arena. He competed in the Triathlon at the 2016 Paralympics, securing sixth place. Jo went on to win a Gold medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Jon-Allan Butterworth MBE

Jon-Allan, a former Royal Air Force weapons technician, was injured in Iraq in 2007. After his military career, he represented the nation as a paralympic cyclist. He won three Silver medals in 2012 and a Gold medal in 2016. In 2017, Jon-Allan was appointed an MBE for his service to cycling. He retired from the sport in 2020.

JJ Chambers

JJ was injured while serving in Afghanistan as a Royal Marine Commando, ending his military career. But the Scottish veteran did not stop there! In 2016, JJ became the first disabled presenter to host the Olympic Games. He has also anchored events like the BBC1 Invictus and the Commonwealth Games during his broadcasting career.

Find out more

We wish the best of luck to all athletes, especially those who have served in the Armed Forces, as they strive for excellence in the upcoming games. The Forces Employment Charity is committed to providing life-long, life-changing support to Service leavers, veterans, reservists and their spouses, partners, and children, regardless of circumstances, rank, length of service, or reason for leaving.

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