“It’s heartbreaking to see something that defines you fall apart”


Chalmers is, at least, grateful for the distraction from his job. A fortnight ago, he finished his dream presentation job, hosting Tokyo 2020 for the BBC (albeit from Salford). It was, he says, “absolutely unbelievable”, and he’s still not quite aware of the fact that he got the job on his tenth “bang birthday”.

“It’s the absolutely wild thing. If someone had appeared, like The Ghost of Christmas Future at the end of that hospital bed, and said, ‘Listen, don’t worry, come through, you’re going to present the Olympics someday …’ , I was like, ‘Uh, what ?!’ ”

For the Paralympic Games, he flies to Tokyo. It obviously won’t be the riskiest trip he’s taken of his life, but it always comes with risks.

“You just have to not let your guard down, this is where it’s similar to [military tours] – because our health is at stake and I have run out of luck. So I’ll be careful, but the show must go on.

When the pandemic began, the first thing Chalmers did was text his former surgeon asking if he was at greater risk than most of Covid-19. His lungs were not damaged by the Afghan explosion, but the rest of his body was injured.

“His response was a bit of both: that according to the scientific understanding we have, I should be fine, but also that people like me are scientific anomalies, having survived the insurmountable.”

Chalmers was not placed in a higher risk group, but he knows from friends in the disabled community that there remains a deep fear of the virus – especially as society opens up, increasing the risk of transmission.

“It’s a great thing. When we talk about Freedom Day, for people with disabilities in particular, and the elderly and vulnerable, it is the opposite of freedom. The lockdown is starting again, in some ways, ”he said.

“The pandemic has shown a lot of people what it is like to feel isolated and not being able to leave their homes, and people should realize that this is what a lot of people with disabilities feel all the time. “

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