Defying the Odds: David Jarvis’s Road to Invictus Games Gold

Ex-Forces Careers Team
28.03.2024 Published: 17.10.23, Modified: 28.03.2024 15:03:03

David Jarvis had a 20- year career in the British Army before being untimely discharged on medical grounds. This former Staff Sergeant, Foreman of Signals is an FDM Ex-Forces consultant who made us proud by representing the UK at the Invictus Games 2023 and winning Gold in the Men’s Cycling Time Trial!

We caught up with him to hear his experience of competing at the Games and how he prepared for the big day.

Having recovered from a near fatal accident that left him severely injured David applied for the Invictus Games last October. He was subsequently chosen to attend a number of pre-selection camps and whilst originally he was intending to focus on cycling the Invictus staff gave him the confidence to try some other sports e.g. archery, table tennis and power lifting.  With the support of medics and physiotherapists who assured him that he would get help if he required he decided to apply for four different sports. Subsequently the selection committee chose him to represent the UK in indoor rowing, power lifting, swimming and of course cycling.

‘It was a whole new experience and felt a bit surreal, but I really enjoyed it.’

The training

For David, training happened in two phases. Having been an All-Arms Physical Training Instructor as a secondary role in the Army for the majority of his career, he knew what he needed to do. The Invictus Games gave him a target to aim at. 

A fitness enthusiast, David attended training camps set up by the Royal British Legion where he got helpful tips and feedback from experienced coaches. For example, the swimming coaches did short videos of him doing laps and gave him pointers on his technique, which he took on board.  

David was also lucky to be given a Talented Athlete pass by his local council which allowed free access to the council facilities.

However, his training came to a halt in May following a diagnosis for Type 1 Diabetes that left him seriously ill. His health deteriorated so much that doctors advised him to quit the team.

David however was determined to make it work and persevered. This brought him to the second phase of training. Earlier, his approach had been deliberate but relaxed. But now he had to reorganise his fitness around his diabetes and be a lot more mindful of his diet. His training after this point became much more deliberate and intense.

‘I’d become a machine… diabetes had decimated my fitness and I was on a mission to get it back by the games’

The training camps provided a controlled environment with medical staff on standby. This allowed him to test his limits repeatedly which he wouldn’t have been able to do at home.

The Games

The Invictus Games draw an average of 150,000 spectators each day. David had never been to such a large-scale event before and admits he was awestruck. He’s grateful for having his family there to support him and for this special opportunity they’d all been given. However, the experience threw him a bit of curve ball in terms of the impact it had on his health. Having been recently diagnosed, he was still learning to live with his condition and learning first-hand that it could be triggered by various factors like a change in weather, diet, type of training, stress levels and more.

This setback had a knock-on effect on his energy levels, motivation and confidence. Doing four different sports also meant that he had less time for dedicated cycling training – which was his primary focus. However, despite the challenges, he was determined to succeed and managed to remain highly focused.

‘I was so focused throughout the event that I was not aware of my result until about 20 minutes afterwards; I was actually the last one to find out that I’d gotten the gold!’

The Race

‘In the time trial, it was me against the clock.’

David went in as the fastest member of Team UK, not knowing the target time but had studied the track on his previous recce so he knew where the corners were and how to hit them at top speed. The event seemed to be over in a flash, but David focused on what he had practised and making sure he kept the power on constantly.   

The athletes were back for the criterium race in the afternoon. During the race, while he aimed to help his own team, they missed the break, and he ended up working with Danish riders. They made a deal and David led them to Gold.

‘It wasn’t my own team, but I was chuffed to bits to have had a part in the play and the camaraderie involved. To me, that is what Invictus Games was all about.’

David remembers being in a daze after the race and not even hearing the results being announced. It was only when he was back in the pit and analysing his performance that his coach found him and gave him the news.

‘Finding out that I was not only the fastest in my category, but the fastest of the whole day was just the cherry on top!’

What’s next?

David has already signed up for the Invictus Games in Canada for 2025 and applied for the Paralympics. In the meantime, he’s also taking part in this year’s National Indoor Rowing Championships in December.

We are proud of David and are committed to supporting others like him. If you’re wondering about your next steps after leaving the services, check out the FDM Ex-Forces Programme. Explore job placement services, career counselling, and networking opportunities to help you find the right career path for you.  

Image credit: Royal British Legion