Gurkha Rifleman Kushal Limbu, who lost both his legs below the knee in Afghanistan, has his sights firmly set on the Paralympics this summer.
Kushal had to have both his legs amputated below the knee when his vehicle struck an IED in Musa Qala on 15 November, 2008. He was one month into his second operational tour of Afghanistan.
“I didn’t hear the explosion, and didn’t really understand what was going on around me at the time. And when I got to Selly Oak hospital in the UK I was so ill with a fever I didn’t think about if I would walk again, let alone run. It was just a case of would I make it out of the hospital,” recalls the 29 year-old soldier who used to carry 35kilo weights on his back as he ran up and down the mountain tracks in his hometown Dharan in East Nepal in training to join The Royal Gurkha Rifles.
“I always wanted to run, and I think I was pretty fast when I was in college, but I never had the chance to compete at a higher level when I had my legs. So when I realised I would get running blades one day… well I remember when the doctors came to see me after my surgery and they asked me I had any questions, and I asked: ‘when am I going to get my running blades?’
“The doctor said you are going to get your walking legs first, then running legs. But I was pretty excited actually. It helped having that goal – it diverts your mind from the incident which killed my Colour Sergeant next to me, and gave me something to work towards. It helped my recovery process.”
It took Kushal a year to be able to walk without the aid of sticks on his prosthetic legs, and a further six months to be fully confident using them, but now he says there is little difference.
“I think I was faster when I had my legs,” says Kushal, whose personal best in the 100 metres is 12.54 seconds and 25.28 seconds for the 200 metres.
“The main difference for me is that when you look at runners on the blocks they use their ankles to push off, and obviously I don’t have them. So I’m slower at the start for the first 20 metres. But after that I catch people up!”
Kushal still has a month to go before he finds out if he is able to compete in the Olympics, but coach, Peter Le Rossignol at the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford is confident.
“In the T43 (double below the knee amputation) category, Kushal is fourth in the world, but the categories are merged for Paralympics making him in the top 15 to 20. But he is only getting faster, and I expect to see him qualify.”
For Kushal, the chance to compete in the Paralympics would be the ultimate achievement: “To compete at the Paralympics would be an amazing thing – it’s the biggest stage there is, so to be there would make me very proud of myself, and hopefully others will feel proud of me too, from my Battalion, the Army, and my country.
“Obviously I have my disability. I am a disabled person, but this is an opportunity to do something to represent my country. I’m not saying I like being this way, but I have a chance to bring something good out of this disability and to show others what I am capable of. I wouldn’t choose to be like this but I’m not going to let it hold me back.”
Kushal lives with his wife Anjela in Shorncliffe, Kent, and trains with Peter three times a week on the track in Ashford, as well as putting in three sessions a week in the gym.