Army veteran says Invictus Games have allowed her to rediscover herself
Denise Kidger with the Duke of Sussex (Denise Kidger and PA)

An Army veteran has said being selected for the Invictus Games has allowed her to rediscover herself and her “can-do attitude”.

Denise Kidger, 51, of Seaham Harbour, County Durham, is to take part in various events at the Invictus Games in The Hague, the Netherlands, which start on Saturday and run until April 22.

Miss Kidger joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps in August 1989, until it disbanded in 1992. She then joined the Adjutant General’s Corps (SPS), serving in overseas posts including Germany and the Falkland Islands.

She was medically discharged in March 2014 due to injuries to her neck, back, hands, shoulder and left knee, mixed anxiety and depressive disorder.

Denise KidgerDenise Kidger (right) with her sister Tracey-Ann Knight and her late brother Stephen (Denise Kidger/PA)

When her 22 and a half years in service ended she “did not just lose a job. I lost a lifestyle and family” and the pride she had serving her country, she said.

But she said adaptive sport “shows you a way that you can still do things and then you see things like the Paralympics on television and your can-do attitude comes back”.

“Without sports recovery, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Denise KidgerDenise Kidger practises throwing the discus (Denise Kidger/PA)

Miss Kidger will take part in a number of events at her first Invictus Games, including cycling in the time trials criterium, indoor rowing, the 100m on the track, discus, the one-armed 50m freestyle, one-armed backstroke and 50m relay in the swimming category.

She recalled a conversation she had with Roger Coates from charity Help for Heroes, in which he asked “Are you being defined by your injuries, or are you letting your injuries define you?”

“I am starting to feel pride again, being able to wear the union Jack and represent my country again,” she said.

Team kitTeam kit was announced in 2019 (Denise Kidger/PA)

“I haven’t just rediscovered myself and my can-do attitude, but I’ve also found friends.

“When you get that personal best and your shoulder, your neck, your back, your hands are all injured, you stop and think – I am doing it,” she added.

“I get so much excitement from actually doing the training and seeing my fitness, my health, my mental and physical health, improve.”

Denise KidgerDenise Kidger with her mother Norma Kidger at the trials for Team UK in Sheffield in 2019 (Denise Kidger/PA)

“It’s so fun being part of something, being included, having a laugh again and learning, and the coaches are absolutely phenomenal,” she said.

Ms Kidger said she was grateful to be employed by armed forces charity Finchale Group, based in Durham, and Kier Group North East Construction, who have bought her items including a Dryrobe, swimming goggles, cycling glasses and trainers, showing her that she “was not alone”.

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