To the eye Alex Dewar is a triathlete, junior coach and member of NYP Tri Club; however what lays behind goes deeper into a story of setback, determination and racing for Britain at the Invictus Games.
Dewar was a Squadron Sergeant Major and a competing member of the British Army Triathlon Team, however in 2015 he suffered a brain haemorrhage which completely changed his life. The haemorrhage left him unable to communicate or remember his name and continues to affect his day to day life.
“There are three elements to my disability first is aphasia, which is to do with the part of my brain which deals with speech,” Dewar said. “Sometimes it’s struggling to find a word or using the wrong word in a sentence.
“Second is the loss of my peripheral vision as a result of the part of my brain that registers the images my eyes ‘see’ dying.”
Following the injury Alex was in hospital for quite a while before being transferred to The Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC), where he received expert intensive speech and language therapy.
“I made a slow yet steady recovery and was able to return to the army in a non-active position. However, when I was ten days off being given the all clear, the third part of my disability came to light as I suffered an epileptic seizure.”
It was during Alex’s time at the DNRC that he realised the importance of sport and fitness to his recovery, as well as how much he enjoyed being active. During his rehab one of his therapists started talking about the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney and suggested that Alex apply.
“I didn’t originally think I’d be eligible as I didn’t have a physical disability, however after talking to my family and therapist, decided to apply.”
The selection for the British Invictus Team is based on a mixture of sport and recovery related criteria to ensure that participants benefit from taking part in the Games.
“Although I’d competed for the Army triathlon team before the haemorrhage, you don’t have to be a strong athlete to take part in the Invictus Games” Dewar said. “It was a complete shock to be selected for both the swimming and cycling squads and was really exciting for my wife Ellie and our four children who have been through my injury and recovery with me.”
Alex was selected as Team Captain and achieved 5th and 6th place in the cycling events, before winning two silver and two bronze medals in swimming.
“The whole training and competing experience, as well as being able to go to Sydney with the support of my wife and kids gave a massive boost for building my self-belief and sense of purpose. Feeling like we were doing things together again was a big part of the recovery process for me and my family.”
Throughout 2019 Alex has been found coaching NYP TriStars, the junior club that his children attend in Ripon. Putting the young athletes through their paces, Alex has been able to pass on his experiences from the Army triathlon team and his time in Australia through his coaching.
Voted NYP Tri Club Member of the Year, Alex has his sights set on growing his coaching through further qualifications and qualifying for the Invictus Games in the Hague in 2020.
“Competition for places will be high, but the qualification weekends in themselves are an amazing opportunity to grow and aid recovery” said Dewar.
“Being able to inspire people to take part in triathlon and physical activity through my story of reengaging in sport has been amazing; and helping others to do the same despite what life may throw up is a massive privilege.”