Navy veteran goes from Dusseldorf to Florida

Department of Defence

Laura Reynell is working to replicate last year’s gutsy performance at Invictus Games Düsseldorf as she backs up for a second round of international competition at this year’s Warrior Games.

However, while medals and placings would be a nice reward for the effort she has put into training, Ms Reynell is more excited about watching her new teammates grow as they experience the adaptive sports competition first-hand.

“I feel really fortunate to be able to go through this with a different bunch of people,” she said.

Ms Reynell joined the Navy as a boatswain’s mate in 2016 before medically discharging in 2020 after her foot was damaged by a machine gun.

“There is so much growth and development from the initial selection camp through to training camps and the actual event, that people tend to forget about that side of things,” she said.

“Reflecting on my own experience, I can see it’s made me more confident, more at ease with my injury.

“Of course, there are days when I still doubt myself – you always have those days – but having the opportunity to meet people from different countries and different services and hear about the obstacles they have overcome has helped me with my own rehabilitation journey.”

Like many of her teammates, sport has always loomed large in the Jervis Bay local’s life. Competitive soccer, touch football, swimming, athletics and CrossFit all served as a welcome release for her while growing up, and sport continued to play an important role as she recovered from her injury.

“Sport has always been my biggest outlet, so losing that to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed, have a shower or just do basic everyday tasks without assistance, put me in a pretty dark place,” Ms Reynell said.

She will participate in athletics, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby at the Warrior Games, while her tight-knit group of family and friends cheer her on from home.

“Once I started the journey of learning to walk, twice, and getting my independence back through sport, the change was phenomenal. It helped with my mood, my confidence, my strength and my balance,” Ms Reynell said.

“Unfortunately, I’ll be going through all that again next year as the surgeons are basically going to pull out everything that’s in my foot, and then plate it, screw it back together and hope for the best.”

With doctors predicting a 30 per cent chance of success, the 29-year-old is bracing herself for the possibility of amputation; however, she’s quite pragmatic about the whole thing, especially if it improves her quality of life.

“It’s been seven years since the accident, and I’d rather get on with life than live with the pain,” she said.

“What I keep saying is that whatever happens, it doesn’t define you for the rest of your life; it’s just another obstacle you have to overcome.”

Ms Reynell joins 29 other Team Australia competitors at the annual adaptive sporting event in Florida until 30 June.

As an additional honour, she was selected to take part in the cauldron-lighting ceremony marking the official opening of the Warrior Games.

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