Paddle back ! - The Purple Warriors are coming . . .
Today a new dragon boat club emerges to join the thousands worldwide, but this one is different. Purple Warriors is a club solely for serving and retired members of HM Forces who, as a result of their service to this country, are suffering from some form of impairment.
This is a world first. This is a club intended to smash society’s preconceptions about impairments by creating a team that will compete against crews that have no paddlers with impairments ... and win.
Purple Warriors will build on the qualities of discipline, professionalism, endeavour and personal sacrifice that have defined our fighting men and women for centuries.
Dragon boating is a global sport, with its own national, continental and world championships. A dragon boat has 20 paddlers, a drummer and a helm and typically races over 200m, 500m, 1000m and 2km. It’s fast, furious, demanding and highly competitive.
Purple Warriors has been founded by some of GB’s top dragon boaters, supported by a number of others, all inspired to help by the bravery and spirit of impaired servicemen and women. These founders are inspired to want to help these people take on a new challenge in their lives, and to emerge victorious. Indeed, one of the founders – Mark Harding – was severely wounded in Afghanistan in 2010 and told he would probably never walk again. In 2013 he paddled for GB, in an able-bodied crew in China in the inaugural Dragon Boat World Cup, and again in 2014 in the European Dragon Boat Championships!
Initially, Purple Warriors will be based in Wraysbury, West London with subsidiary venues in Exeter and Stockton-on-Tees. The initiative has the full support of the Battle Back Programme.
Purple Warriors will compete this year against British able-bodied dragon boat crews. The club is also working with the International Dragon Boat Federation to have an impaired crew category in the 2018 European Championships and 2019 World Championships, and with the Invictus Games for inclusion of the sport in the 2017 Toronto Games.
Nigel Bedford, one of the Club’s founders, is a retired Army officer and GB paddler. He said “Purple Warriors is about inspiration and achievement. When the team is in a dragon boat, no one will be able to see anyone’s impairments – what they will see is a crew committed to making a difference for each other and determined to take on the best, and win.”
For further information head over to their website at www.purplewarriors.org