Blind veteran Steve makes Team GB

20 August 2018 16:00

Our amazing blind veteran Steve is celebrating his latest martial arts success after winning a silver medal for Team GB at the British Taekwondo International Poomsae Championships in London.

Steve Birkin at British Taekwondo International Poomsae Championships 2018
Steve at the British Taekwondo International Poomsae Championships 2018.

Steve says: “I’ve always been quite confident going into competitions but London was the first time I was representing Team GB and I was really nervous. But once I was there it felt fantastic, knowing I was part of the GB squad and representing my country. I was over the moon with the result.”

Steve served with the Royal Navy in the Middle East during the Gulf War. He was training as a diver when he injured his back, which led to him being offered a medical discharge after 12 years of service.

A young Steve Birkin in Army uniform
A young Steve in his Navy uniform.

It was years later, in 2014, that Steve lost his sight suddenly due to Chorioretinitis. Of receiving his sight loss diagnosis  Steve says: “I could not believe it at first, my family was so upset and tried to do everything for me but I realised that I would have to get on and do stuff for myself”.

It was while Steve was phoning his daughter from hospital, with the bad news of his sight loss, that a man popped out of an adjoining room, apologised for overhearing the conversation but telling Steve to get in touch with Blind Veterans UK, which he did.

"I wasn’t sure about it at first, I’m not a charity case and I didn’t want people looking after me. But, after hearing more about Blind Veterans UK, I thought I’d give it a go because I didn’t have anything to lose. It was one of the best things I ever did. The charity helped me get back to having a normal life."

“I went to the charity’s Llandudno centre for an introduction week and absolutely loved it.  From the start I felt like I was part of the family. Just like the camaraderie of being back in the Navy.”

Steve has also taken part in lots of the activities and special themed weeks we put on as a charity, including woodwork.

Over the last two years Steve has been climbing the Taekwondo ladder of success and recently qualified for the Team GB squad in Poomsae.

Poomsae is a competitive discipline of Taekwondo, a set sequence of movements, various stances, blocks, punches and kicks arranged in order to respond to attacks from multiple imaginary assailants.  It requires balance, technique, coordination and self-discipline.

"Blind Veterans UK taught me that my sight loss shouldn’t hold me back from living my life and trying new challenges. That’s something that has really spurred me on with my Taekwondo."

It’s brilliant to see our blind veterans, including Steve, achieving such fantastic things. We think they are all amazing examples of life beyond sight loss.

Steve’s next challenge is to win a gold medal in international competition and with his determination we are sure that will come very soon!