Chris Jones: Disabled Daredevil

The full copy from my story about Chris Jones which appeared in Metro.DCIM100GOPRO

A former British soldier who was injured on active duty has found a new career as a disabled daredevil.

Chris Jones, 40, was seriously injured while on active service in the UK serving as a trooper in the British Army Air Corps and is now in a wheelchair.

Chris sustained a fractured left foot, a torn achilles tendon, soft tissue damage and a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder in April 1995. He lost 50 per cent mobility in his legs, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain condition which causes him chronic pain.

Despite his injuries, Chris has excelled in kayaking, adaptive skiing, wheelchair motocross and mountain biking.

Chris said: “I can walk short distances unaided but usually I am in a wheelchair. The more time I spend on my feet, the more pain I’m in.

“Everything I do hurts – getting out of bed, going to work, going to the shops.

“Given that the things I have to do cause me pain, I’m determined not to go without the fun stuff just because it might hurt a bit when I get it wrong.

“I’m the kind of person that wants to be able to say ‘I did it’. When I sit at the top of a mountain bike trail, or look back at an approaching wave, I want to be able to say I went for it.

??????????????????????“If I’m not out of the house kayaking or skiing or mountain-biking at least four times a week I become very difficult to live with. I can’t help it. Looking for new thrills is like a drug.”

Chris, from Plymouth, was discharged from the army in 1998.

The father-of-one was a keen surfer before he lost the use of his legs. But after his injury he needed to find a new hobby.

“I used to sit around in a surf shop owned by a friend,” he said.

“I became used to watching people surfing, knowing I couldn’t take part myself.

“Then one day my friend turned to me and suggested I get out there with a kayak.It was a lightbulb moment, we were both stunned we hadn’t come up with the idea already.”

Chris also suffers from a chronic pain condition, Fibromyalgia. This caused Chris to collapse one afternoon in 2010 while out in his kayak by himself.

“I was out paddling when I felt something like pins and needles in my arms,” he said. “I couldn’t hold the paddle any more.”

“It was like someone had got duct tape and wrapped it around my arms and legs – I just couldn’t move. I washed up on a beach where I was found, and the emergency services were called.

“Afterwards the doctors told me I had to cut down on my time in the water.”

Chris has a 14-year-old son, Max, and is married to Leigh-Ann, 40.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After his collapse Leigh-Ann pleaded with Chris to find a safer way to spend his time.

Chris said: “So instead I took to adaptive skiing. While I was recovering from my accident in the water, I booked myself into a skiing lesson on a dry ski-slope.

“I loved it, but it was expensive to hire the gear, and opportunities to ski are limited in Devon, so I needed something else to do.”

That was when thrill-seeking Chris took up adaptive mountain biking.

“I don’t know why it took me so long to think of mountain biking,” he said. “I thought back to when I was 20 years old and I used to go out on my bike a lot.

“I thought, that’s a great idea, if there is adaptive skiing there must be adaptive mountain biking.”

13Chris spent hours looking on the internet but could only find very expensive hand-crank bikes which cost thousands of pounds.

Eventually he found a bike online for £1,800 and pleaded with the seller to reduce the cost.

The owner of the bike, Paralympic silver medalist Karen Darke, agreed to sell him another old hand-crank bike for only a few hundred pounds.

Chris improved the bike and has since set up his own business, Merici Sports, to design new affordable mountain bikes for disabled people.

He added: “If a disabled person wants to buy an adaptive mountain bike it will cost them about £5,000.

“Most people with the full use of their legs can walk into a shop and buy a really good bike for £500.

“My new company is not for profit, because I think every disabled person deserves that chance to have a go at  these sports without it costing the earth.”

Last year he rode a hand-powered mountain bike 28 miles across Dartmoor, raising nearly £5,000 for the British legion.

His next major challenge is planned for August next year when he will spend five days paddling a kayak around the entire south coast of Devon.

Chris is now working with the University of Plymouth to design and build new extreme sports equipment for disabled people.

He said: “I’ve told them all the things I would like from a bike and the things I dislike about my current bike. Now I just have to wait and see what they come up with.”

Learn more about Merici Sports here: https://www.facebook.com/mericisports

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