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By James Toney in Tokyo
Once a soldier, always a solider and Micky Yule certainly lived the motto of the cap badge he once wore with pride, ‘Where Right And Glory Lead’, here in Tokyo.
Of course, glory comes in many ways at these Paralympic Games, Yule’s took the physical form of a powerlifting bronze but, in truth, it meant so much more than that.
His life changed forever when an improvised explosive device detonated near him in Helmand Province on July 1st 2010, one leg immediately amputated by the blast.
But the former Royal Engineers staff sergeant famously claims he doesn’t have the time for ‘slushy stuff’ like regret and sentimentality, preferring to always look forward. It's certainly inspiring to be as relentlessly optimistic as Yule but you have to wonder how it doesn't totally exhaust him.
In the build-up to his first Games in Rio, where he finished sixth, he hung a Brazilian flag in his garage gym in Southampton – an ever-present reminder of the mission he’d accepted. He replaced it with a Japanese Nisshōki within days of returning home.
“This means everything, the last five years have been a nightmare," he said.
“It’s been really hard work, I’ve broke my leg twice, had Covid and really struggled to get my strength back just to qualify for the Games.
“If I knew the road I would have to take to get here, I don’t know what I would have done. I have got over worse; I know I can dig in. We can get through dark places and come out of the other end stronger and as better people.
“I don’t doubt ever myself in any situation, when things are at their lowest, I know I will perform and I felt I did that.”
Inside every Tokyo venue is an area called the mixed zone, where journalists diligently sanitise their hands and patiently wait for a socially distanced moment with an athlete who is variously ‘speechless’, ‘gutted’ or ‘learning from the experience’, Olympic skateboarders were universally 'stoked', win or lose.
However, if Yule doesn’t do sentimentality, he certainly doesn’t do vanilla quotes.
“What I’ve learned is you just have to keep on going, you can't beat yourself up when you are down,” he said. “Everyone gets low, everyone feels it. If things were easy in life then everybody would do them. Be there, be a driving force for people to do well. Don’t drag anybody down, just be nice really.
"Nothing comes easy, it is a rollercoaster of a ride. You have got to get through it and take the highs and lows when they come. If you can stay in the middle and keep training hard, stay accountable to yourself, and make sure you can look in the mirror each morning and say you are doing your best, you will get there. Whatever the situation.”
Yule joined the army straight from school aged 17 and like close friend and fellow Afghanistan veteran Jaco van Gass, who claimed his second gold at the cycling velodrome in Izu today, he credits military training with the resilience needed for sporting success.
And it’s also made him a canny tactician. Along with his coaches, Yule channelled the battle smart strategies of Sun Tzu and Barca to outflank and outwit rivals with his weight selections, a high-stakes game that paid dividends.
“We went out there with a plan, get our lifts in and make the others have the mistakes,” he added, his best lift of 182kg over twice his body weight.
“It is high-risk poker. The coaches are all studying the other lifters. I put my earphones on and got myself into my little place because the pressure saps your energy. I just had to hit that 182kg and step back and see where the cards fell and they fell in my favour."
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