Kelly Scanlan had always planned for a lifetime of service.
“I have police officers in my family, I have firefighters in my family and I kind of wanted to follow in that tradition when I was done with the military,” the 26-year-old corporal with the Canadian infantry told CBC News Friday.
But an injury during pre-deployment training derailed those dreams for Scanlan, who will represent Canada in wheelchair tennis, cycling and swimming during the Invictus Games in Toronto.
“I ended up tearing something in my leg,” the Milton woman explained.
Docotors initially assumed it was a simple injury but the physical challenge of being an infantry soldier in Afghanistan exacerbated the damage, she says. And that ended her dream of working as a first responder after leaving the military.
“They told me that wasn’t an option any more,” Scanlan told CBC Toronto.
“I had to get surgery and then do months of rehab and physio and seeing osteopaths,” she said, explaining how she became very aware of her physical limitations. Scanlan says she also had to cope with mental health issues after the injury. She took time off and took on modified duty afterwards.
It was only when she saw a post on her Facebook timeline about the Invictus Games, something she had never heard of before, that she began revisiting those dreams.
Corp. Kelly Scanlan is representing Team Canada in wheelchair tennis, cycling and swimming. (Ousama Farag/CBC)
The Invictus Games are a Paralympic-style event for wounded, injured and sick soldiers — and former armed services personnel — from 17 countries. The games consist of 12 adaptive sports, including swimming, wheelchair basketball cycling and sitting volleyball.
The slogan for the games reads: “I am the master of my fate.”
Scanlan spoke with Team Canada organizers and decided she wanted to compete.
“When I started training for the Invictus Games, I started noticing that, all these limits I had, I was able to push past them and then I started looking back on all these old goals that I left behind.”
So when a posting opened up for a firefighter’s job in Milton, she took a chance.
‘Competing against the me that was struggling’
“I jumped on it thinking, ‘Maybe I can actually do that,'” she said.
Scanlan is now a recruit-in-training to be a Milton firefighter and is in the process of leaving the military.
“Training for the Invictus Games is absolutely what’s preparing me for the physical challenge of a job like that.”
The games, organized by Prince Harry, will run from Sept. 22 to Sept. 29 in Toronto.
“I’m not really competing against other teams, I’m competing against the me of one year ago. I’m competing against the me that was struggling,” Scanlan said.
She says she’s determined to defeat the person she once was.
“I look forward to kicking her butt,” she said.