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Gillingham's Darren Young hoping to celebrate 49th birthday with gold medal at Invictus Games in Sydney

Former RAF firefighter Darren Young has set his sights on a golden birthday as he heads Down Under to take part in the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney.

Young will turn 49 at the opening ceremony of the Games – an international adaptive multi-sport event, created by Prince Harry, for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel.

At the event in Australia later this month, Young will compete in the sitting volleyball, shot put and discus, and it is in the latter where he is confident of taking the title.

Darren Young is heading Down Under with his sights set on glory Picture: James Robinson
Darren Young is heading Down Under with his sights set on glory Picture: James Robinson

Gillingham resident Young, who spent 16 years in the RAF before being medically discharged with spinal and shoulder injuries, competed at the Warriors Games in Chicago last year.

And having won gold in the States, he is optimistic about doing the same in Australia.

“Discus is going really well,” said Young, who was competing in the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge, where Invictus Games competitors had the opportunity to be selected to represent their nation in the event in Sydney.

“I went to the Warrior Games in Chicago last year and won gold. What I’m throwing now would have been good enough for gold at the last three Invictus Games, so I’m in line for a medal.

“The only person that can damage myself is me, I put lots of pressure on myself.”

Having left the RAF in 2006, Young struggled with depression for four years as well as suffering from spinal issues and requiring six operations on his shoulder.

And he readily admits that his wife Mel is the main reason he is in a position to be competing in the Invictus Games.

“It took me a long time to get used to being a civilian and come to terms with my back and shoulder being bad,” said Young, who now works as a freelance fire safety manager.

“It would have been easy for my wife to leave me because I knew I was the worst person in the world to live with.

“But my family have stuck with me and made me stronger and stronger. They’re coming out to Sydney with me and I’ll be an emotional wreck.

“My wife has got me through all of this and without her I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I wouldn’t be stood here.”

Jaguar Land Rover is the Presenting Partner of the Invictus Games, which takes place in Sydney, Australia from October 20-27. Jaguar Land Rover is using this year’s Invictus Games to lead and inform the debate on future mobility, and how its future technology could help people’s lives.

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