Former Senior Aircraftsman David Atkin has returned home to Putney after representing team UK in the powerlifting, indoor rowing and running events at the Invictus Games in Sydney.

David, from East Putney, joined 71 other wounded, injured and sick UK military personnel and veterans who all competed in the fourth Invictus Games competition.

He missed out on a bronze medal in the Men’s 100m final by 0.07 seconds but says being a part of the Games has been life-changing.

He said: “What a whirlwind that was. I cannot believe my time in Sydney has come to an end, but I am so thankful that I got to be a part of this year’s Games. The whole journey was one big emotional rollercoaster. From walking out on stage for the first time to meeting David Beckham after he watched me compete in the Men’s 100m final, it was the most surreal experience of my life so far.

“Missing out on that bronze medal by only 0.07 seconds is tough but it makes me all the more hungry for the next Games in Hague in 2020. Despite not winning a medal I’m returning with some lifelong friends, not just from team UK, but from other nations too. It really has been a life-changing experience for me and one which I will never forget.”

David, now 29, joined the Royal Air Force Regiment as a section machine gunner in 2008 at just 19 years old.

In 2010, David’s military career was cut short whilst on deployment in Afghanistan. The vehicle he was travelling in was involved in a road traffic accident resulting in David breaking his back.

A year later he was medically discharged after four years of service. David has undergone numerous spinal operations but still suffers with daily pain.

David said: “When I was medically discharged from the RAF I felt cheated. I’d barely started out in my career before it was gone. Things got on top of me and I spiralled into a pretty dark place. I became depressed, gained weight, stopped going out and things broke down in my marriage.

“The Invictus Games came just at the right time and gave me something positive to focus on again. I started going to the gym, the weight dropped off and I began to start to feel happy in myself again.

“The RAF Benevolent Fund’s support was a lifeline and one which I will never take for granted. It was that practical support that kept me in my home when I was unable to work, I can’t thank them enough for that. At 22, you don’t expect to be looking at reclining chairs but that was my reality at the time. I’d like to thank the charities, like the RAF Benevolent Fund for their on-going support, who knows where I would be without their support.”