Gatley ex-serviceman Jon-Allan Butterworth sets off for Paralympic Games

Jon-Allan Butterworth
Jon-Allan Butterworth

Ex-serviceman Jon-Allan Butterworth from Sale has flown out to Brazil to prepare to represent his country once more as part of the ParalympicsGB team competing at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro from 7 – 18 September 2016.

Jon-Allan was announced on the cycling team by the British Paralympic Association (BPA) in June. He competes in the Rio Olympic Velodrome venue on Friday 9th September in the Men’s C4 Kilo from 2030 (GMT). He also competes on Sunday 11th September in the Mixed Team Sprint Qualifier from 1447 (GMT) and (results pending) the Finals from 1657 (GMT).

Butterworth, who runs a cycle shop in Gatley (Bikehaus on Stonepail Road), has been supported in his sport by Help for Heroes, which works in partnership with the BPA and UK Sport to provide military athletes with an introduction to Paralympic sport.

Jon-Allan, a former Weapons Technician in the RAF, served in Afghanistan in 2005 and Iraq in 2007. It was there in August 2007 that he was caught in a rocket attack on Basra Air Station.

“It was a normal day, we had breakfast, drove the Land Rover on the way to work, the early warning sirens started to go off and then the rockets came in. I was just unlucky; I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A bit of shrapnel tore through my left arm and somehow missed all of my vital organs; I walked away with only a scratch really.”

He was operated on by doctors in a battlefield hospital who carried out an above the elbow amputation of his left arm.

In October 2007, while he was still recovering at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court in Surrey, Jon-Allan attended a British Paralympic Association talent ID day in Loughborough. It was here that he first made contact with British Cycling coaches.

In May 2008 he took part in the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride, a 350 mile cycling challenge around the battlefields of northern France, to raise funds to benefit other injured servicemen and women.

“When you’re recovering your body goes through a lot of changes.  You think that you just lose an arm but it’s not as simple as that. You can’t do the exact same exercises as before to stay fit, you have to adapt and that takes time to learn.  Your body starts to pile on the weight; it reacts to the trauma, it goes into survival mode and stores fat. You have to relearn everything! ”

In August 2008, with support from Help for Heroes, Jon-Allan attended a Paralympic sports camp in San Diego to nuture his interest in Paralympic sport. Already identified as particularly talented at a Paralympic talent ID day in the UK, the British Cycling team then decided to put him through his paces in Newport Velodrome, on one of their more in depth talent camps.

He joined the development squad in 2009. “At that point you don’t realise how good you could be, natural talent sometimes doesn’t transfer to the bike, and it is unknown how you will develop. You’re just making daily progress, small goals and seeing where it takes you. It was quite weird for the first six months, getting into a new routine, getting into a good routine that promotes good habits, the foundation stones for success.”

Jon Allan says competing for your country is similar to being back in the military: “Not a lot of people can go back to active service after injury, to go back out there and fight for your country. So this is like another way to fight for your country. It’s an honour to represent my country again in the sporting arena. I can’t go back to the military but I can do this! Sport has replaced that longing to belong to something, it did replace the military.”

Jon-Allan’s talent for cycling saw him represent his country at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in Track and Road Cycling, where he won an incredible three silver medals.

Selection to ParalympicsGB provides Jon-Allan an opportunity: “I’ve won world titles on the track, broken numerous world records, even more national titles and national records! Then three silvers at London, I’m not being greedy; all I want is one gold at Rio! It would be really nice to finish off that collection.” 

Throughout my whole career I’ve received support from Help for Heroes.  Initially it was the simplest things like grants for equipment – that probably helped speed up that progression to my first world title in 2011. I had a year off after the World Championships in 2014 to refocus. When I started my comeback to cycling Help for Heroes stepped in, not only with world-class equipment, but also with a world-class support structure around that. I went on to break another World Record at the National Track Championships in 2015, cementing my place back within the British Cycling team. Without Help for Heroes being there for me, it would have been unlikely that I would have done as well to date. I might not be here today, without that support, simple as that.”

Jayne Kavanagh, Performance Pathway Manager at Help for Heroes, said:

“We’re proud to work in partnership with the British Paralympic Association to provide military athletes with an introduction to Paralympic sport.”

“We know that sport plays a big part in the recovery journey, providing a sense of confidence and purpose as well as improving general wellbeing. We encourage anyone that might want to try sport for the first time post injury to be inspired by these athletes and they too could find and experience the power of sport in their day to day lives.”

This adrenaline-fuelled sport that combines speed and tactics has been in the Paralympic programme since Atlanta 1996. In Rio, there are 17 medal events, with men and women competing individually or in mixed teams.

Jon Pett, British Cycling Para-cycling Programme Manager and ParalympicsGB Team Leader, said:

“We are really pleased to be able to name such a strong cycling team for Paralympics GB today. The riders have all earned their place in the squad with some excellent performances on the track and the road over the last couple of years. We have a great blend of riders in the team, from some with significant Paralympic Games experience to those who will be competing at a Games for the first time. We’re very confident that the team that has been selected will be ready to give everything they’ve got to deliver success in Rio for ParalympicsGB.”  

Anyone who is wounded, injured and sick who would like to get involved in sport can visit www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-support/

For more information on Jon-Allan click HERE.