Birmingham & Black Country

Blinded soldier Paul Jacobs targets 2016 Games

Rifleman Paul Jacobs and Louise Smith
Paul Jacobs met his wife Louise while in hospital in Birmingham

A former soldier has targeted the 2016 Games in Rio after being blinded in Afghanistan.

Paul Jacobs, 23, from Stourbridge, says he is "lucky to be alive" after being injured in August 2009 while serving with 2nd Battalion The Rifles.

He was awarded the George Medal for bravery after being left blinded by a bomb while on patrol.

But now he is taking up rowing - and wants to compete at the highest level.

If he fulfils his dream, it would be a remarkable achievement for Mr Jacobs, who is determined to "crack on with life" and is training most days.

'Competitive streak'

"I lost the sight in one eye and the other faded within six months," he said.

"I was in Selly Oak Hospital for some time and then went to Headley Court."

After leaving the Surrey rehabilitation centre, Mr Jacobs moved from London to Stourbridge.

It was during his time at Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital that Mr Jacobs met his wife Louise, where she still works as a healthcare assistant.

"My wife's from Stourbridge and I just wanted a fresh start," he said.

He enjoys Thai boxing and has competed in marathons and triathlons, and hopes to compete in Ironman events, despite also suffering muscle damage to his right arm and leg in the bomb blast.

Paul Jacobs and friend Michael Hobbs
Paul Jacobs and friend Michael Hobbs ran the Great North Run together

Relying on touch and verbal directions, even during the swimming leg of triathlons, Mr Jacobs said sport offered an escape.

"I keep myself busy so I don't have too much time to think about things.

"I'm determined to do the London Marathon next year and I've done other charity fundraising events too," he said.

However, it is in rowing that Mr Jacobs is bidding to compete for his country, targeting the Rio Games.

"I've got a very competitive streak. I don't like losing," he said.

He said sport had also offered him a chance to feel more independent.

He said: "They say you can be independent but you can't ever be truly independent; it's a fact that I have to rely on other people.

"I'm learning white cane skills which gets me from place to place but life is obviously easier when you can see what you're doing.

"Having no sight can be a bit crazy, you build up a mental picture of things you've never seen before.

"I guess it's your brain compensating and your imagination going into overdrive."

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