The roar of the crowd and Prince Harry’s roars of ‘you can do it!’ are still fresh in the ears of army veteran Micky Yule.
It’s been just two weeks since the inspirational dad-of-two picked up Britain’s first gold of the Invictus Games in America.
But rewind almost six years ago and it would have been hard to imagine the 37-year-old ever achieving such a feat after having his legs blown off while out on patrol Afghanistan.
The date was July 1, 2010. It was a searing hot day as the former Staff Sergeant was hunting for deadly improvised explosives devices – or IEDs.
The deadly home-made bombs were taking a heavy toll on British forces fighting the Taliban – many of those injured were Micky’s friends.
‘It was our job to find the bombs and destroy them,’ says the former Royal Engineer.
I wasn’t expecting them to save the legs. I didn’t even ask anyone or look when I woke up from the operation to see if they had.Micky Yule, 37
‘The problem was, the Afghans out there were bloody good at their job.
‘In 2009 and 2010 we were getting hit pretty badly by IEDs – that’s what the war had turned into.
‘Out of my friends that got injured in Afghan, 80 per cent of them were doing the job I was doing.
‘People would normally tend to stay away from the bombs but not us, our job was to go out and find them.
‘Unfortunately, me and my mates were often the ones that took the hits.’
Micky had helped to explode a number of bombs during his tour in Helmand Province.
‘It was just another day in the office,’ jokes the 37-year-old.
But his ordeal was far from a laughing matter.
For Micky and his family, it was the beginning of a long battle of recovery, one he still feels today.
‘I remember stepping on the pressure plate of an IED and it just exploded,’ he recalls.
‘I instantly lost my left leg and my right leg was mangled. I was bleeding really badly but I was conscious throughout it all.
‘There was a really big chance I was going to bleed out right there and then.
‘That was really the main killer out there, so everyone was really worried about that.
‘I had also partially severed my hand which was hanging off and pumping out blood.’
Amid all the chaos, blood and dirt, Micky’s fellow soldiers were quick to rush to his aid.
‘I had two or three guys just tourniqueting everything all up,’ he says.
‘I remember trying to help them but there was nothing I could do.
‘I was covered in blood, I was a complete mess.’
Micky was flown to Camp Bastion were he was given emergency care before being jetted off to the UK.
Within 24 hours he was in the intensive care unit of Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
‘I was actually in Birmingham before my wife and mum were.’
Micky spent eight weeks in hospital and had 30 operations.
Despite their best efforts, doctors could not save his right leg which was too badly mangled.
But they were able to rescue his right hand much to Micky’s relief.
‘I wasn’t expecting them to save the legs. I didn’t even ask anyone or look when I woke up from the operation to see if they had,’ he admits.
‘The first thing I looked at was to see if they saved my hand. If you lose a hand you’re stuffed. That really ruins your day.
‘My hand was still there – I mean it was hanging off and a mess but it was still there.
‘But yeah, I never looked for my legs, I knew they were gone.’
It was a tough couple of years for Micky and his wife Jody, 36, and their son Charlie, who was just three when his dad was blown up.
‘You’re the one that protects your family, you’re the alpha male. You go from being the protector to someone who is getting pushed around in a wheelchair.
‘But you just have to deal with it. You can’t be even half the dad or husband that you were before.
‘All those things you had planned to do have been taken away from you,’ says Micky, of Locksheath.
It wasn’t until Micky saw the closing ceremony of the Paralympic games that he became inspired to take on sport.
He went back to his passion before his injury – hitting the gym. He had been on the Army’s power-lifting squad and went back to it.
After years of training, he competed in the inaugural Invictus Games in London, in 2014, clinching gold.
But Micky’s main reason to compete are for his wife, son and his nine-month-old girl, Tilly
‘I just used sport to get my life back and it seems to be working. I wanted my family to be proud of me,
‘That’s my main driver. I don’t do this for medals. I just do it for my family.’
Micky was left red-faced after completing a personal-best lift of 190 kilograms at this year’s games in Orlando, Florida.
‘When I sit down to lift I just want to show those cameras, people and the whole world just how good I am,’ he explains.
‘I just want to show everybody the hard work is paying off and that just because I got injured in Afghanistan I’m not ready to just get thrown on the scrapheap.’
MICKY’S ROAD TO RIO
‘I am going to need the best four months training if I’m going to be in a position to fight for a medal in Rio,’ admits Micky.
The power-lifting star says he is determined to break into the world’s top five disabled lifters.
‘If I don’t come in the top five I will class this as a failure,’ he says.
But to do this, he will have to push his body to the absolute limit.
For Micky, D-Day is 4.30pm on September 10 when he aims to try and press his heaviest weight yet – 193 kilograms – more than three times his own body weight.
He hopes that by benching this colossal total he will intimidate his rivals.
‘I want to put so much pressure on them that it strangles them into making a mistake – if I’m still with them in the top five then who knows, I might even get a medal placing.’
But it’s a long way until he can get to this stage. Micky faces weeks of intensive training and says he will do at least 10,000 presses before he hits Rio.
The only thing that can derail his ambitions right now would be injury.
‘When you life more than three times your bodyweight, it’s not just about being able to handle the weight, you’ve got to believe you can do it – you’ve got to visualise victory,’ he adds.
‘You can go through the hardest things in your life but if you stay positive you will come out the other side.
‘When we go to Invictus we have already been through hell and back. But that doesn’t ever stop us. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.’