UK veteran sailing to recovery

Team UK’s Dan Majid can see the funny side: he and his sailing teammates are “all in the same boat” and his long jumping “has come on in leaps and bounds” since he started preparing for Invictus Games Sydney 2018. But, behind the puns, there is a serious side to the role sport has played since Majid’s arm was severely damaged by shrapnel in a blast while he was on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010.

“Sport is a vehicle for making a recovery, mentally and physically. And sailing, in particular, has given me that focus,” he said.

“There’s a real freedom to it, the sun shining down, you’re looking to the horizon and gauging the wind and there’s a real feeling of success when you get it right. You’re literally travelling and moving forward. It shows you that you can learn new things, that you’re still capable of accomplishing things.”

Majid’s face lights up when the prospect of sailing by the Sydney Opera House is mentioned. The Invictus Games Sydney 2018 sailing competition will be an event unlike any of the 11 medal sports, with racing in two boat classes to be framed by spectacular landmarks. The event is free for spectators.

“My history in sailing is only this year,” said Majid. “We’ve been on the water a few times and I’ve progressively become more confident. I really enjoy it, I think that’s the important thing. I’m really enjoying learning a new skill.

“My partner bought me a book about it, which I’ve been reading. The training’s been great, everyone’s been really supportive of each other and we’re literally all in the same boat.

“It’s going to be an amazing experience to sail on Sydney Harbour. I think it’s going to be one of those snippets for me to keep in my back pocket, a real conversation starter.”

Majid will also compete in indoor rowing and the long jump.

“I haven’t done long jump since I was in school, but it’s been another great learning experience for me,” he said.

“I’m a PE and geography teacher at home and I’ve been using the top-level coaching we’ve been receiving and filtering it through to the kids I teach. By coaching them, it’s helped me reflect on how I’m going – and my long jumping has come on leaps and bounds.”

Jokes aside, Majid has done plenty of reflection since he was medically discharged in 2012. His injury meant he couldn’t move his wrist for nine months and he faced 18 months of rehabilitation to get his arm working again.

He has been supported by his partner Jess, who will arrive in Sydney in the next few days with the couple’s 11 month-old baby. Further understanding has come from his UK Invictus Games teammates.

“I think the one thing you miss from being in the military environment is an understanding of your mindset,” he said.

“Everyone having a similar approach and certainly within the injured and wounded community there is understanding. Everybody’s on their recovery journey.

“Catching up with people who are on that journey can give you good examples of people who’ve made good gains. You get that camaraderie again and everyone’s ‘vibing’ off each other in a similar way to what you get in those tight-knit military environments. Everyone understands what we all want out of these Games.”

Sailing will be one of the great spectacles of Invictus Games Sydney 2018. Racing will begin at 11am on Sunday 21 October at Farm Cove in the shadows off the iconic Sydney Opera House. The event is free for spectators. Fans who choose to watch from Farm Cove in the Royal Botanic Garden can also catch the free action in road cycling. 

David Sygall
Invictus Games 2018