History made as elite US para-athletes and wounded armed forces personnel descend on Mey Games

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The Duke of Rothesay saw history being made at the small Highland games near his far north holiday home at the Castle of Mey.

He watched as a clutch of elite US para-athletes and wounded armed forces personnel wowed the crowd in what was the first competition of its kind on the Scottish games circuit.

The paraHighlands was given the royal seal of approval from Prince Charles in his role as Mey Games chieftain.

The Duke of Rothesay in Scotland judges the tug-of-war (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

The heavy events programme was championed by Alex “The Tank” Armor, a wheelchair-bound, caber-tossing world champion and America’s Strongest Athlete with Disabilities in 2018.

He helped launch Uncle Sam’s Highlanders after discovering a passion for strongman events while rehabilitating from spinal cord and brain injuries sustained while serving in the forces.

Alex Armor (right) of the Uncle Sam’s Highlanders team takes part in the Mey Games (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

The 32-year-old, from Tennessee, who defied medical advice, said: “I promised myself that I would not be confined by anything.”

He added: “We’re certainly not going to stop at Mey. There’s no problem to have an adaptive programme involved in a games – you don’t need special equipment, it doesn’t slow the games down and it’s not a financial burden.”

Meanwhile, the duke arrived at the games with a party including his cousin, Lord Snowdon, and Lord Thurso, the lord lieutenant of Caithness, and his wife Marion, Lady Thurso.

(Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

Sporting a kilt and carrying a shepherd’s crook, he chatted with guests.

It proved a big day for Crossroads school pupils Liam Webster, 11, from Scarfskerry, and Lexie Watson, 12, from Brough, who presented the duke with bouquets.

Liam said: “He asked if we were enjoying the games and whether we were taking part in any of the events.”

Later, he spoke with three Thurso youngsters who have been working to help inspire a new generation of games participants.

Isla Costello, 14, Aimee Campbell, 15, and Erin Green, 18, were recruited by High Life Highland to help run come-and-try sessions for local youngsters.

(Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

Erin said: “We ran a session which we delivered to about 20 children, from toddlers upwards, who had a go at putting the shot, tossing the caber and throwing the weight for distance.

“It’s all about trying to encourage them to get involved and hoping that one day they will end up competing on the circuit.”

The duke looked relaxed and enjoyed a dram of whisky as he watched the sporting events and other attractions.

The games was also the end-point for an 11-strong team of Help for Heroes cyclists who had left from Wick the previous Saturday on a charity trek around the NC500.

The duke was also happy to see the inauguration of an event held in memory of the late Charlie Simpson, from Wick, a noted performer, judge and organiser in the north games circuit.

The traditional heavy events programme was dominated by Matt Hand, from Belmont, New York. The 31-year-old won the light and heavy shot putt, the light weights for height and distance, the hammer and the caber.

The adaptive section was headed by 38-year army veteran Mark Little. A Purple Heart holder for bravery in combat, the leg amputee, from Virginia, won the weight for height, the light and heavy shot putt.

The caber honours went to double amputee Matthew Hall from North Carolina while Steve Cocayne won the sheaf toss.

The women’s contest was a head-to-head between Jarvina Routt, from South California and Amanda Ford, from North Carolina.