Peter French, UK Forces Veteran, Aims to Conquer PTSD and Speed Record, While Raising Funding for Others.
In Switzerland, a crowd of skiers turn their heads as a man flashes past – fast. Speeding skiers are nothing new on this slope but this man isn’t wearing skis; in fact, he doesn’t appear to be wearing much at all on his feet, which explains the puzzled faces.
He’s one of the earliest adopters of a new sport from Norway that dispenses with skis and snowboards in favour of two ‘snowskates’ barely longer than a human foot.
In April last year, a world speed record was set at 115.27km/hr (over 70mph) on these tiny skates. That feat was achieved by Finnish hockey player Jari Pekka Rahkonen. Now, Peter French wants to set a UK record on Sled Dogs Snowskates.
For Peter, the challenge has a special significance. Like many ex-servicemen and women, he is continuing to fight some of his toughest battles long after leaving the armed forces.
It’s a fight he is determined to win.
Peter suffers from clinically diagnosed PTSD, verified by the British Government and the UK Ministry of Defence. Official recognition and greater awareness of PTSD – notably led by Princes William and Harry, both former servicemen themselves – have provided major steps forward in the long road to recovery.
But it’s the support from friends and family that has made all the difference for Peter. He is joined in his training and record attempt by his brother Andrew and his teenage son Carney. According to Peter, the bonding and camaraderie they have experienced on the slope has been “heart-warming” and “transformative”, following a difficult period.
“I served 13½ years in the Royal Engineers from 1986-2000, during which time I lost my best friend who I’d known since early childhood and another good friend from my unit. Since leaving, I’ve lost another two friends for whom the burden of PTSD proved too hard to bear. There have been some very difficult times and I’ve had some very low moments indeed.”
Peter wants to let other PTSD sufferers know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. With his record bid, he wants to raise awareness for PTSD and funding for the charity Help for Heroes, which has been able to open four walk-in clinics for people to seek assistance whenever they need it.
“The fundraising has been amazing. With two months left until the record attempt, we’ve already surpassed our target of raising £1500, so that shows the level of support out there and that support means a massive amount to veterans like me – it really makes all the difference to know that you are not alone, that people recognise PTSD and want you to succeed.”
Back on the slope, Peter slides to an impressive stop and checks his stopwatch. It’s a good time but he wants to do better and that means another trip to the top. It’s not the first mountain he’s had to climb and it won’t be the last but this time he’s confident, has great support and feels well up for the challenge.
You can support Peter’s fundraising campaign for Help for Heroes here at justgiving.com.