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From wounded warrior to Olympic wire hero

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 31, 2012

  • Joe Townsend carries the Paralympic flame into the stadium on a zip wire from the Orbit during the opening ceremony for the London Paralympic Games 2012 at the Olympic Stadium

  • Joe Townsend

  • Fireworks light up the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Paralympics. Left: The Olympic cauldron burns again

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A Westcountry Royal Marine who lost both legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan played a high-flying role in the spectacular Paralympic opening ceremony.

Joe Townsend almost died in the blast in February 2008, while leading a company of marines from Taunton-based 40 Commando back to their base after an early morning patrol.

But the 24-year-old, of Hasler Company, HMS Drake in Plymouth, has defied medics by going on to achieve stunning sporting success, including a haul of seven gold medals in a Wounded Warriors athletics championship for injured troops in the United States.

And on Wednesday night, Joe, who is aiming to compete in the triathlon at the 2016 Paralympics, wowed the 80,000 crowd and the millions more watching on television as he flew into the Olympic stadium on a zipwire from Orbit Tower.

After his breathtaking descent, he handed the flame on to David Clarke, a member of the Paralympics GB five-a-side football team, who in turn passed it to Margaret Maughan, winner of Great Britain's first Paralympic gold medal at the 1960 Rome Games, who then lit the cauldron.

Joe's daredevil entrance was a fitting tribute to his remarkable recovery after undergoing more than 40 operations.

"I was told I would never walk again and would be in a wheelchair for life," he said after receiving an award for his achievements.

"But I refused to believe it – and now just see a wheelchair as a piece of sporting equipment that I can race in.

"Sport has been great and given me a focus for my life and something to concentrate on. The events have given me a new lease of life."

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