A Sunderland veteran has been chosen to represent the UK at this year's Invictus Games
Ian 'Roni' Ronald is one of three north east veterans who will be travelling to Canada to take part in the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 in September.
The rower will join medically-retired Army Captain Ken Hargreaves, who lives in Northumberland, and ex-Army Corporal Ian Young, from County Durham.
The 34-year-old, who lives in Sunderland with his girlfriend Elizabeth Witney, took up rowing to aid his recovery from paralysis after brain surgery.
The former Royal Marines Corporal was just 24 when he underwent a 12-hour operation to remove a brain tumour.
When he came round, he found himself paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak.
Fortunately those conditions were only temporary – with intensive therapy, his speech eventually returned and, after seven months in a wheelchair, he slowly got back on his feet.
However, damage by the tumour to his nerves and brainstem left him with bad co-ordination issues and put an end to his career in the Royal Marines.
Since then, the former pupil of The Hermitage school, in Chester-le- Street, has worked hard to regain his independence and his fitness.
Rowing, in which he will compete in Toronto, has played a large part in that.
Having worked out on a rowing machine in the gym when undergoing rehab at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court, he is now a member of Tees Rowing club in Stockton and his ambition is to make the GB Paralympic squad.
“Using a rowing machine is horrendous – physically hard. Rowing on the water is hard too but in a different way. I love being outside, in the fresh air and pushing myself,” Ian said.
“When your career in the military is taken away from you, you really miss it but rowing has given me a new sense of purpose and as for going to the Invictus Games, well, even though the team has been announced and I am attending training camps, I can’t believe it is happening.
"It has revived my motivation to continuing pushing the boundaries and make headway in everything that I do.
"And the more I do, the more independent I become.”
Ian, who now works in project delivery for a telecoms company, will be joined in Toronto by Elizabeth and his mum Tina Ronald.
The UK's 90-strong team of wounded, injured and sick, serving military personnel and veterans was announced at a special ceremony in the Tower of London attended
by Invictus patron Prince Harry.
They were selected from more than 300 military personnel and veterans who attended trials in 11 sports.
The rigorous selection process was based on the benefit the Invictus Games will give an individual as part of their recovery, combined with performance and commitment to training.
Medals will be competed for in Athletics; Archery; Wheelchair Basketball; Cycling; Powerlifting; Indoor Rowing; Wheelchair Rugby; Swimming, Sitting Volleyball, Wheelchair Tennis and, new for 2017, Golf.