Sight loss is no barrier to get stuck into sport

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SOME of them may be long since retired, and they all have visual impairments of some kind, but that could not dampen the competitive spirit of the participants in the Blind Veterans UK sports day.

Dozens of veterans from across the UK are taking part in the charity’s annual week-long summer camp, which includes activities as varied as sailing, gliding, archery and bowling.

The sports week is being held at HMS Sultan in Gosport, where competitors will try their hands at shooting hoops, taking football penalties, negotiating a slalom and throwing rings over targets.

Nigel Whiteley, 67, from Peacehaven in East Sussex, can see only shadows since contracting a tropical disease in 1984.

He said: ‘It was devastating, and there was all of the “why me?” syndrome.

‘I applied to St Dunstan’s, as it was, and they have helped me ever since.

‘The charity is marvellous. This week is great, and it’s so competitive but we all get on well.’

Peter Hammond, 60, from Brighton, has been totally blind since being hit on the head by a brick in Northern Ireland 36 years ago.

‘I’ve been coming to the summer camp for about 10 years,’ he said. ‘It’s all about catching up with old friends.

‘It’s totally different to anything we do all year. It’s all about the camaraderie.’

The Blind Veterans UK sports day is supported by the Fleet Air Arm field gun crew.

Commander Nick Bowser, commanding officer of the Royal Navy and Engineering Survival School, said: ‘HMS Sultan does a lot with the community and this is part of that.

‘We offer things during this week that sighted people would think twice about.’

Event organiser Dave Burrows added: ‘It gives these guys the chance to get away from the bubble they sometimes live in.

‘We encourage them to be active and a little bit self-sufficient.

‘And they enjoy coming back into the services’ environment.’