Romania track competitor Laurentiu Serban is running on royalty – literally.
“His Royal Highness Prince Charles gave me this leg,” the 39-year-old said of the new carbon fibre running blade he acquired last year ahead of the Toronto Invictus Games 2017.
He won bronze in the 1500m but just missed the podium in 2018 in Sydney, finishing fourth in the same event at the Sydney International Athletics Centre on Friday.
Serban said he wasn’t upset to miss out on a medal by just one spot – the gold went to Australia’s Andrew Wilkinson, the silver to Mickael Ranchin (FRA) and bronze to Ben Seekell (USA).
“I already have a medal,” Serban said.
“I just love to run. It’s good for a healthier body and all medical aspects like blood pressure and fitness. My blood pressure and weight are now back to where they were before I got injured.
“I’ve lost 15 kilos since I’ve been running. I’d recommend to anyone to find a reason and go and do sports.
“Get up from the bed and give it a try.”
So how did a British prince give a prosthetic leg to a Romanian solider?
“It has an interesting story,” Serban said.
“My wife is a reporter and last year she was trying to make an interview with Prince Harry. She wanted to use the interview as a fundraising campaign in Romania (to help prepare Invictus competitors).
“Unfortunately due to his schedule Prince Harry could not give the interview but his father His Royal Highness Prince Charles donated this leg, and others, and some (adaptive) bicycles for my colleagues who participated in Toronto last year.
“So it is a royal running blade.”
Serban was injured in 2006 in the Afghanistan province of Kandahar, when he was 25.
“It was my last mission on a six-month stay there. I was only two weeks from going home.
“On a night mission we were coming back towards the base when a large IED (improvised explosive device) destroyed the first vehicle in our party,” he said.
“I was on foot rushing to try and get my colleagues out but there was another land mine, well-hidden in the ground as it was still dark.
“I detonated that land mine.”
As well as losing his right leg, he had a large piece of shrapnel embedded in his left hand. They managed to save it but he bears the disfigurement as a reminder of that terrible night.
“They evacuated me and others on a US plane to an American base hospital in Germany. I spent about three-and-a-half months there and that’s where they came and fitted me with a prosthetic leg.”
He learned to walk, and then run, again.
“At the beginning there were a lot of dark times because I thought my career was over. And I didn’t know which way to turn with my life,” Serban said.
“But afterwards I became much better. I improved a lot with my family around me.
“My military career continued and I also got into sports and running,” he said, having now been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.
“I have been back to Afghanistan on rotation. I feel like I’m a living example for my colleagues that whatever happens, life can continue.”
Invictus Games Sydney 2018