The Lauders arrive for the Veteran Games in Israel. From left: Tillye, Elyn, Kelly and Pete.Picture: SUBMITTED.

SPORT: The Veterans Games in Israel proved to be a real family affair for West Norfolk’s Pete Lauder.

The GB Paralympic volleyball player and Scotland international wheelchair rugby league star was invited to represent the RAF Benevolent Fund and Team UK in Tel Aviv. 

Lauder, a former RAF sergeant of Watlington and his family, were among 200 people from the UK at the event, which brought together veterans from the British armed services and their Israeli comrades. 

The visiting team consisted of 65 former members of the military who suffered physical or psychological injuries and were competing in swimming, shooting and cross-fit.

“The whole experience was fantastic,” said Lauder, 43, who left the RAF after suffering a hip injury, which has left him with nerve damage and a loss of feeling in parts of his leg.

“It is an amazing country, amazing people, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the family.

“It was such an honour to be chosen and something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do, as the games had been postponed twice due to Covid.”

The Lauder family were followed by a film crew during their stay in Israel as part of a documentary.

The opening ceremony of the games was compèred by legendary Israeli swimmer Hanoch Bodin, a six-time gold medal Paralympian.

Lauder was involved in the first day of competition, taking on a crossfit challenge.

“I had never done it before but thought I’d give it a good go,” he said.

“The events were altered depending on disabilities, ranging from a two-minute arm hang, dead lifts, two-minute burpee challenge and three-minute single arm kettle bell shuttle.”

The following day saw Lauder in swimming action, picking up silver and bronze medals in the 100m freestyle and 50m backstroke.

His daughter Elyn, who is a member of West Norfolk SC, was also invited to swim and competed against Bodin and Olympic champion Eran Goumi. 

She received a commemorative medal for her participation and a signed shirt from Bodin.

“It was a fantastic opportunity and amplified the ethos of the games, which was inclusive for the families,” said Lauder.

“My other daughter, Tillye, was the life and soul of the group; getting people involved with clapping, cheering, taking pictures and helping out with the young kids at a Chelsea FC day, organised by the charity due to their connections with the club.”

Lauder completed his stay as part of the Team GB crossfit side and said: “We were never going to be competitive, with two permanent wheelchair users and a single arm person. We didn’t stand a chance but we proved nothing stopped us and got the day’s biggest cheer.”

As well as the competitions, the family were given a first-class tour of the city as well as a trip to Jerusalem. They also visited the Dead Sea and had a desert dinner with Bedouins.

“Experiencing the different cultures was something to behold,” said Lauder.

“I can’t thank all who attended and those that helped enough. To attend was an experience we will never forget; from the Israeli veterans, who welcomed us as their own, to the RAF Benevolent Fund for choosing us, and Bait Halochem for organising such a prestigious event.”