Winnipeg golfer Jayson Nickol says he was proud to reach the podium at the Invictus Games in Toronto, but it’s the camaraderie of his fellow athletes that will always stay with him.
The 33-year-old retired corporal tied for bronze at the international sport event for wounded and sick soldiers, including current and veteran members of the forces, taking place in Toronto this week.
“Sports gets people back outside and makes you feel like a part of community and part of your friends and family,” said Nickol, whose right femur was shattered in Afghanistan.
In 2008, Nickol was trying to set up a police substation in Afghanistan when he came under fire and was surrounded by 20 to 30 Taliban fighters.
As the Canadian soldiers tried to push back to a more secure point, Nickol dove behind a wall.
“As I was diving to get onto, like, a little berm, I took a bullet through my right femur, completely shattering it,” Nickol said.
“My whole life changed at that moment.”
Nickol tried to kneel and his leg folded back behind him, making him worry it was gone. He crawled over to a foxhole and other soldiers got him to a safer area and, eventually, to a helicopter.
After multiple surgeries and an ongoing battle with post-traumatic stress disorder that’s left him struggling to sleep, Nickol went out to his family cabin near the Falcon Lake Golf Course and decided it was time to give the clubs a swing.
“I golfed a lot when I was a kid with my grandfather and family. I actually quit golf sort of altogether when I joined the military for many years,” he said.
With the help of crutches, Nickol started to golf again.
At the Invictus Games, Nickol has been inspired by other athletes who are overcoming the physical and mental scars of war. At least 550 competitors from 17 countries are competing in 12 sports at the Games.
“It’s been incredible….