When he got the call making a long-held dream a reality, it wasn’t until he phoned his mum Janet and she burst into tears that the full force of his achievement landed.
Training five days a week and determined to give his best, Jack says: “This has been my dream for six or seven years and right now I’m so excited. My parents, brother, sister and my girlfriend have been so supportive and, although it’s not possible for them to watch, they are over the moon for me.”
Jack doesn’t like the limelight and hopes young people with challenges may be inspired “by the story rather than me personally.”
And the story is, indeed, inspiring. He had a diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 16, a couple of weeks before his injury playing for Billingham v Darlington in the County Cup.
“I always remember the consultant saying not to worry, to live my life as normal and carry on playing rugby,” Jack recalls.
From North Tees Hospital where he had spinal surgery, he went for three months’ rehab at The James Cook University Hospital spinal unit.
“That three months felt like a lifetime,” says Jack. “I went home to my parents and could do very little, couldn’t dress, roll over, sit up in bed. I was using an electric wheelchair and everything was done for me. My family’s support was massive, the IPF brought me a laptop to my rehab and a signed England shirt. Later they funded a hand cycle so I could go out at weekends with my dad, Graeme.”
At one point Jack cycled for 12 hours around Brands Hatch to raise funds for the IPF. “I didn’t realise it was so hilly,” he laughs.
With vocational rehab, Jack progressed to becoming independent and moved into his own accessible property, with an IPF funded through the ceiling lift. He lives in Sedgefield with girlfriend Emma, who works for HM Prison and Probation Service.
Wheelchair rugby became increasingly his passion after Sean Lacey from the Spinal Injuries Association got him along to the local club, The North East Bulls. He progressed to Leicester Tigers Wheelchair Rugby and through tremendous dedication to the GB team. Athletes are classified on levels of ability from 0.5 to 3.5, Jack being classified as 1.
“Players regularly fall out of chairs, there’s lots of contact, it’s tactical and technical and tough but, although people think we are a bunch of idiots, I haven’t had any injuries since playing. I love it, training five days a week, and in addition watching videos, reviews, analysis.
“We are ranked 4 in the world after Australia, Japan and USA and contests are always really close, games can go either way. We would love to go out there and win gold and have set a minimum target of achieving a medal.”
He can’t wait to fly out to the Games on 17th August. His sister Molly was fundraising and as a qualified physiotherapist offering free physio when GB Wheelchair Rugby lost their funding.
“To have funding reinstated for four years was fantastic as we were expecting to fund ourselves, making it impossible for many players. The RFU has always worked alongside our sport and given us office space and I feel massive gratitude to the IPF.
“It’s not just their financial help but their total support, with virtual fitness sessions throughout the pandemic and the way we are like a family. You go to the specially adapted hospitality box at Twickenham to watch England and feel like you have always known the other clients there.”
Certainly, everyone will be rooting for Jack and the rest of the wheelchair rugby squad and, although he may not like the limelight, let’s hope it arrives with a Paralympic medal.