Injured paratrooper 'living the dream' at end of Arch to Arc triathlon
A former paratrooper blown up in Afghanistan has said his injuries had been a blessing in disguise after he led the first disabled team of athletes to the end of the Arch to Arc triathlon.
Co Durham fitness instructor Dean Middleton, 30, said he was "living the dream" as he stood under the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris following three gruelling days and nights of running, cycling and swimming.
He said his life was transformed by a serious brain injury when his armoured vehicle was hit by a Taliban bomb while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
He said: "We fought and some of us nearly died for our countries, but I think it has been a blessing, it really has.
"I get more job satisfaction now than I did doing active service, being able to help publicise wounded and sick soldiers, rehabilitate and do massive achievements.
"Before being blown up I struggled to swim 25 metres, I scraped through my swim test and then... I swam the Channel yesterday."
The servicemen and women have spent almost 20 hours braving jelly fish as they swam across the English Channel before switching to bikes for the ride to Paris and the finish line at the Arc de Triomphe.
Strong tides forced them miles down the coast from Calais towards Boulogne-sur-Mer. They started and ended in darkness, the chilling effect of nightfall an additional burden.
The Enduroman Arch to Arc challenge, from London's Marble Arch to the Arc De Triomphe, was organised by charity Help for Heroes.
Mr Middleton said: "I am elated and chuffed to bits, I have to keep pinching myself.
"Being here today is unimaginable, unbelievable. Being blown up in Afghanistan in 2010 has been the best thing to have happened to me.
"It has been a massive blessing in disguise, today doing stuff like this, working for Help for Heroes is living the dream."
While some of the 24 competitors were using wheelchairs for the run, from Marble Arch in London to the south coast, others were pedalling from Calais to Paris, to reach the finish at the Arc de Triomphe after 300 gruelling miles.