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Former Royal Marine JJ almost died in an explosion whilst out on patrol in Afghanistan. After months of gruelling rehab he competed in the Invictus Games and went on to become a presenter for Channel 4 and the BBC. He recounts a compelling story of hope, determination, courage and teamwork.
John-James ‘JJ’ Chalmers is a former Royal Marine Commando, a former school teacher, an athlete and now a TV presenter. After almost dying on duty in Afghanistan, he underwent hours of surgery and painful rehabilitation to win medals at the Invictus Games and become part of Channel 4’s Paralympic coverage team.
Starting his working life as a teacher, JJ had joined the Royal Marine Reserves whilst at university and after a few years teaching transferred to the regular Marines. He was deployed shortly afterwards to Helmand in Afghanistan. A lance corporal, he led his section in conjunction with the Afghan Army and Police in building links with local communities. Whilst patrolling a village they were warned of a bomb-making factory in a house. Inside the building an IED exploded, killing two members of JJ’s team and seriously injuring him.
A week after the incident JJ woke in a hospital in Birmingham. He would go through months of operations and gruelling rehabilitation and some of the lowest possible points physically and mentally. He determined never to give up, and once recovered, never to be limited by his ‘new body’.
JJ took up diving and was part of the 2015 Invictus Games, captaining the Trike Cycling team which won a total of eight medals, including a gold and bronze for JJ himself. He and two teammates, although competing against each other, demonstrated the spirit of the Games by determining to finish joint first in their Recumbent Cycling race. After the Games he was talent-spotted by Channel 4 to join their team of presenters for the 2016 Paralympics and he became one of the lead hosts of their coverage.
In inspiring and surprisingly entertaining presentations JJ points out that you don’t need to be blown up to realise the value of your achievements and your potential as a person. Everyone has some experience they can draw on when times are tough; everyone has some way to overcome insurmountable odds. He speaks about his determination, forged in his Marine’s training, that average is not good enough and how anyone can cope with even the most dramatic changes with the right attitude and the right team.
As a presenter, as well as the Paralympics in Rio, JJ has also fronted Superhumans, coverage of The Anniversary Games and of the IPC in Doha and National Paralympic Day all for Channel 4. He’s also covered the Invictus Games and the European Swimming Championships for the BBC, and also co-hosted their series running up to Rememberence Day, The People Remember. Alongside a range of guest appearances and other factual programmes, JJ also competed in Strictly Come Dancing.
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