Three years ago, she was sitting at home in Doncaster, binge-watching Netflix, eating junk food and feeling sorry for herself. As she hugged the Duke of Sussex in London yesterday, Lisa Johnston could scarcely take in her change of fortune.
An injury during a PT training session with the Royal Army Medical Corps had cost her the bottom half of her left leg. At 34, she was reduced to doing aerobics at a class for the elderly.
But the therapy paid off – and after a tryout last year at America’s Warrior Games for injured service personnel and veterans, she has found herself on the team that will represent Britain at Prince Harry’s Invictus Games next spring.
She was one of four Yorkshire athletes named among the squad of 65 who yesterday heard the Duke tell them: “It’s going to be awesome”.
Harry, who spent 10 years as an army officer, has been the driving force behind the Paralympics-style event and had turned out at the barracks of the Honourable Artillery Company, north of the Thames, to have his picture taken with them.
“This is an opportunity for you guys to be serving your country again,”he said, during an informal chat.
“Never underestimate the impact you are having on everybody else.”
Ms Johnston, a mother of three, who is now 37, will compete in swimming, rowing, field and track at the Games, to be held at The Hague in May.
“I feel so proud to be selected,” she said. “Just attending the training camps was great for me. To be in an environment with others in a similar situation makes you feel normal, in the best way possible.
“It’s also a way of proving to my children that no matter what life throws at you, or what obstacles get in your way, with hard work and determination, anything is possible.”
It had been different in the aftermath of the operation to amputate her leg above the knee.
“I found it difficult to leave the house for a long time,” she said. “I felt very uncomfortable about people staring, whispering and pointing. I was eating rubbish, binge-watching Netflix. It got to a point that when walking around or playing with my boys, I was quick to be out of breath. I thought ‘what kind of example am I setting for my children?’”
She said she was “shocked” to be selected for last year’s Warrior Games in Colorado, but returned with three swimming gold medals and a silver in the seated discus.
Harry’s advice yesterday was to “make sure you enjoy every single moment and look after each other”.
He had been inspired to found the global Invictus Games after attending the 2013 Warrior tournament and seeing how injured American military personnel thrived on the challenge of taking part in competitive sports that aided their recovery.
He went on to stage the inaugural Invictus games in London’s Olympic Park in 2014, followed by Orlando in 2016, Toronto in 2017 and Sydney last year. After the next outing, Invictus will be staged every two years.
Paul Inman, who is also from Doncaster, and Sarah Robinson, from Hull, were among the other athletes at the Duke’s launch event yesterday. Both had been in the UK team that travelled to Sydney last year. Dean Tofton, from Immingham, made up the contingent from the Yorkshire region.