All of these ex-servicemen were using some form of sport, whether it was conquering Everest or the North Pole Challenge or something else, to help them recover. It gave them a new lease of life, brought them back into the brotherhood that they’d missed and because they were now part of a team, it gave them purpose and was making them healthy again. I thought: “I could make a difference here.” These are the kinds of people I wanted to work with in sport. And that’s how I got involved.
I’ve been volunteering now for seven years. I’ve helped train, buddy and mentor athletes at the Warrior Games, Invictus Games and, for the past four years, at the Working Wounded Games in the US. I also volunteer with Help for Heroes, most recently for the Enduroman Arch to Arc event, which is a 55-hour triathlon from London’s Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. At August’s Superhero Series, I was the swimmer for the Barclays team alongside Paralympian David Weir and visually impaired cyclist Laura Turner.
Volunteering in this way is very personal for me because I was a high performance athlete for 30 years. I was born and raised in Zimbabwe and was into everything sporty from about the age of three – my father was a physical training instructor in the army and was heavily involved in my coaching. I started diving when I was six and first represented my country at eight, going on to compete as a springboard diver at the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics and to win silver at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990. I was shortlisted to represent Zimbabwe at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but had to withdraw due to injury and that was the end of my elite sporting career. Being raised in Africa then, we didn’t have the specialists who could manage our injuries like they do nowadays. You’re hitting the water at 30-40 miles an hour, and over time you get repetitive injuries to your neck, shoulders, spine. So my body just said, no. Enough is enough.