Veteran from Afghanistan wants to Paralympics after severe brain injury

Veteran from Afghanistan wants to Paralympics after severe brain injury
Veteran from Afghanistan wants to Paralympics after severe brain injury

Ostrava – War veteran Lukáš Hirka, who ten years ago suffered a severe brain injury on a mission in Afghanistan and was in a coma for a long time, wants to represent the Czechia as a disabled athlete. In the Ostrava club, he mainly throws the javelin, but sometimes he also picks up a discus or a ball. He is preparing for the World Championships in 2023 with intensive training. He dreams of the Summer Paralympic Games, which will be held in Paris in two years. Sport became the main content of his life. “It mainly brings me motivation. The feeling that one is still worth something. That one can still achieve something. Something big,” the thirty-six-year-old veteran confided to ČTK.

Ten years ago, few people gave him such chances. He was supposed to end up immobile in a hospital for long-term patients. But the family did not accept that. She fought. Today, Lukáš is active in sports, speaks English, is learning Spanish, and although in pain, he can stand up and take a few steps. He wants to push the boundaries further. He can rely on his closest relatives – father, mother and younger brother and family.

He was in a coma for a year and a half after suffering a brain injury caused by shrapnel from a rocket in September 2012. This was followed by several years of stay in the Klimkovice spa. “After years of rehabilitation, I was very tired. Tired of the never-ending fight with an opponent who is very strong. My injury. I thought I would like to compare forces with someone else,” the war veteran explained his motivation. He played sports since childhood. He played hockey, did combat sports, later liked to shoot.

But for a new sports career, he had to choose an activity that he could handle with regard to his injury and its consequences. Dangerous blows to the head eliminated para hockey or shotgun shooting from the viewfinder. In addition, after the injury, his vision is worse, so shooting was out of the question for this reason as well. That’s why he chose athletics. “In athletics, I just have to hit a long distance. I don’t have to hit anything exactly,” says the veteran with a smile. He does javelin and discus and shot put. But the closest thing to him is a spear. “I don’t look like a shot putter. The discus doesn’t appear much at the international level. I enjoy the javelin the most anyway. It’s a technical sport. I like to think about how to execute the throw correctly,” he said.

He failed athletics right after the first training session. Although he was not very successful. “The javelin landed on the opposite side. I threw a bit in front of my knees,” he said. He is also satisfied with the fact that he is now solely responsible for his results. “When I don’t succeed in a race, I can only blame myself. Success and failure are all my business,” added the young man who trains in the SSK Vítkovice Para Athletics Team under the guidance of former athlete Aneta Inochovská.

He throws from the so-called throwing bench to which he is chained. This year he is experiencing his first sharp season. And he has already broken the Czech record twice in his category. He prepared hard. During the winter in the gym, in the summer he practiced technique at the stadium. And accompanied by father Jiří, who fulfills the role of assistant, he went to races. The Grand Prix in Morocco awaits them in September. Next year the World Championships in Paris. “A completely bold goal is the Olympics in Paris. We’ll see, it’s difficult to qualify there. It’s also important how he keeps his health. For me personally, Lukáš is already experiencing the Olympics. A person who was just lying on the bed and nothing could be done with him , today he travels around the world and completes these races,” said Hirka the elder.

“Small is the one who has small goals,” Lukáš added with a smile. But he approaches his life with humility. “Everything can change from one day to the next. My health is really very fragile,” he added. In addition, his condition often changes. “My problem after the injury is not in my spine, but in my head. So sometimes it works, sometimes not at all. Sometimes I get up in the morning and take a step. The next day, maybe not at all, I stay in bed,” he said.

Even last year he threw 16 to 17 meters. He now has a personal best of over 21 meters. According to him, the world top is still a little further away. “People who agree on 35 meters have been racing for 20 years. I’m only in my second year. So I still have some room for improvement,” he said.

Handicapped athletes are divided into a number of categories according to the degree of their disability. Lukáš is on the border between two of them. In one, he would win relatively easily today. On the other hand, there is a lot of competition in the second. Spears fly very far there. It is also composed of competitors with less severe disabilities. He takes competing with them as a challenge. In addition, he has to deal with the consequences of a brain injury in addition to his poorly moving legs. He has problems with flashes of light or noise, suffers from post-traumatic epileptic seizures.

He copes with everything gradually with the help of his family, who were never satisfied with the initial hopeless prognosis. “From the beginning, we told the doctors to try something. There was always time for him to just lie in the hospital. We didn’t want to accept that nothing could be done. We searched for information and met with people who have experience. And we continue to do so to this day. My wife is a wonderful caregiver. We wouldn’t be able to do it without each other,” Hirka Sr. told ČTK. He quit his job some time ago. She takes care of her son full-time as an assistant.

He and his wife worked with their son even when he was in a coma. Then four years in rehabilitation in Klimkovice. When he got there, he could only partially move his hand. He left them with the help of a walker. “If in the end Lukáš will be at the Olympics, it is important for him today. Not so much for me anymore. I will do everything to get him there, but for me the Olympics is already what he is experiencing today. He should have ended up bedridden. Instead, he rides around Europe and racing. He is a great motivation for many people. In addition, he is approaching some self-sufficiency. This is a great success for us,” said Lukáš’s father.

Afghanistan army athletics Ostrava

The article is in Czech

Tags: Veteran Afghanistan Paralympics severe brain injury

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