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Duncan Slater on battling the odds, starting over and the power of endurance

Introducing Duncan Slater, a British veteran and double amputee whose story of grit, endurance, and absolute resolve in the face of adversity is nothing short of extraordinary


After an unfortunate incident in Afghanistan in 2009, where his vehicle exploded from contact with a roadside bomb, the former platoon sergeant of the RAF suffered extensive physical injuries that left him “a bit broken and battered.”

In reality, these were life-changing injuries that left Duncan wheelchair-bound for an entire year of the rehabilitation process, as he pondered his devastating circumstances and the two options he now had to face. To stay where he was, physically and mentally, and accept living his entire life in a wheelchair. Or pour his heart and soul into a transformation that would mean he’d need to have a double amputation and learn to walk again. Thanks to a potent mix of his love of life, an unwillingness to yield in the face of adversity, and the added motivation of a new baby on the way, Duncan made a decision that saw him, in many ways, literally start his life from scratch. 

“The prognosis for me moving forward in life wasn’t too positive,” Duncan says of his hospitalisation due to major spinal injuries and badly damaged legs. “The doctors were kind but honest. They said, ‘You’re not going to be able to carry on in your job, and your future mobility is not looking good, so you’re going to have to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair’… With that, I think you can look at the medical side, but then there’s a human factor – and I always look at the human factor. I thought, ‘Well, I’m just going to give it everything I’ve got and see where I end up’. I was staring down the barrel of being a dad, and I wanted to be an active dad who walks his child to school.”

Unfortunately for Duncan, things were about to get worse before they got better, and despite a year of rehabilitation, his leg injuries were indeed far too great ever to see him walk again. “The doctors said, ‘You can stay as you are, or you can have the amputations – but you’ll be starting everything again. You’re essentially losing the parts of your body that aren’t working and are holding you back.’ So, it was about getting the prosthetic [limbs] and starting again and learning to live life a little bit better. And so that’s what I did.” 


I think you can look at the medical side, but then there's a human factor – and I always look at the human factor. I thought 'Well, I'm just going to give it everything I've got and see where I end up'

Ducan Slater on his medical prognosis and facing life a wheelchair


To say that Duncan began to ‘live life a little bit better’ is today an understatement. As early as 2011, he not only abandoned his wheelchair but was already participating in challenges and expeditions that would put him on the map as a record-breaking trailblazer.

Fast forward to 2013, Duncan became the first-ever double amputee to race to the South Pole with Walking with the Wounded’s 2013 expedition team and becoming the first double amputee to complete the world’s toughest foot race – the Marathon Des Sables in 2017.

For Duncan, having a disability and being an amputee is a badge of honour he proudly wears. It means belonging to an elite group of people who have the capacity to endure the harshest of circumstances, the toughest of physical challenges, and the most testing of mental hardships – and overcoming them all thanks to a champion mindset. It also means never looking back on what could have been.

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