I enjoyed sports at school, but it was always just Army, Army, Army for me, so I didn't really participate at a serious level. After the injury I got the chance to try all sorts of crazy adventure and extreme sports through the likes of Blesma and Battle Back. On one trip in 2012 we went to a lake to try sit down water-skiing and while I was there I saw a guy wakeboarding. I realized it could be done that's when the learning process really began.
I joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglians straight from school. I was three months into my first tour of Afghanistan when I got blown up. That was in January 2010. I was just 18 years old.
We’d been under fire all day and got the order to assault a compound. I stood on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). I didn’t know anything about it, all I remember is a white flash, but I was apparently blown about 10 feet in the air.
I woke up back in Selly Oak in Birmingham with my parents by my hospital bedside. I battled for 18 months to keep my leg, but in the end nothing was working. The surgeons gave me the choice: take it off or keep having numerous operations in the hope it might get better. In August 2011 I eventually decided to amputate my leg below the knee. I felt relieved once I’d made the decision, and since then I’ve not looked back.
Blesma introduced Owen to wakeboarding and give him the chance to try snowboarding. Now, the 23 year old competes against able-bodied boarders and has his sights set a medal at the 2018 Winter Paralympics.
One of my biggest aims is to get other guys out on the mountain. I’d love to coach more any my message would be: some bad stuff has happened to you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy yourself.
“For me it was about having fun and doing something cool but now I’m really focussed on the Winter Paralympics.” Owen was invited to the prestigious X-Games – the sport’s ultimate freestyle showcase – to display his boarding talents and came 8th in the competition that was televised in the US. He uses conventional snowboarding gear and his only adaptation is a small plastic tube inserted into the bindings to promote his knee to the correct angle.
“I remember being at Headley Court, the Army’s rehabilitation centre, and seeing people with all kinds of injuries and just getting on with rebuilding their lives. I feel that no injury should get you down or hold you back,” he said. “It is tough and you are going to have bad days but you can still do what you want. “One of my big passions is to get people out there. I love coaching and see people progress. It is huge for me."
“I’ve done all I can now. It is ridiculously tight at the top with a second separating the first five riders, It’ll be anyone’s on the day, but that means if you mess up in the tiniest way you’ll miss out on a medal!” To go to the Paralympics having jumped on a board for the first time five years ago in a country where there’s no snow would be just wow! “I hope it boosts the adaptive snowboard scene in the UK. It would be cool to inspire anybody, not just people with disability, to realise that there’s nothing to stop you unless you let it. I’m working hard and know this is an amazing opportunity for me."
"I can’t thank Blesma enough for taking me on that first ski trip and for supporting me along the way."