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Gurkha Hari Budha-Magar’s quest to make history
This double amputee is scaling peaks in life that few of us could even contemplate - both literally and metaphorically.

As sporting events go, precious few are the equal of the Simpson Cup for inspiration. Yet even by the lofty standards of this unique tournament, the story of double-amputee Hari Budha-Magar, making his debut for Team GB at The Maidstone Club in September, is something extra special.

The now Kent-based Hari was born to a farming family in a remote hillside village in the Rolpa District of Western Nepal. His 45-minute commute to primary school was done on foot - without shoes - and he learned to write on a wooden plank with chalk stone. It didn't stop him from making the most of his education, but, growing up during the Maoist uprising, it's fair to say his childhood was vastly different to that of his teammates.

"I got married at the age of 11, although I still completed school and college," Hari noted. "I remember as a teenager carrying salt, kerosene and food on my back from another district each year - it used to take 15 days to return home carrying loads, and sleeping in caves and fields. I also once carried 50 kgs of cement and my belongings from Liwang (about 40 miles south of Rolpa, mostly uphill) to my village for a water project."

As upbringings go, they don't come much humbler than that. However, Hari saw opportunity - and duty - beckon in early 1999, and, while studying at college, applied to join The 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles. Despite there being hundreds of applicants per place – a “lottery”, as he describes it - his character and credentials ensured that he made the cut.

During an illustrious 15-year career serving the Crown, Hari was stationed in Kenya, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Bosnia, Kosovo, Germany and Afghanistan.

His specialties included explosive safety, covert surveillance, first aid, sniper and many more, while he also qualified as an Infantry Platoon Sergeant. However, whilst serving in Afghanistan in April 2010, his life changed in an instant, as he suffered life-threatening injuries following the explosion of an IED.

"Our team were out on foot patrol in a poppy field in Afghanistan, when suddenly we heard a massive bang," Hari recalls. "I knew I was badly hurt, but all I was thinking was that I was going to fight until my last breath. Fortunately, there was no enemy in the area, and my colleagues evacuated me in time, so I survived."

He frames it as a lucky escape, but the explosion resulted in Hari having both legs amputated above the knee, while incurring multiple other injuries, and a continued struggle with PTSD. He was eventually medically discharged in 2014 (as a Corporal), yet, despite his terrible injuries, he harbours no regrets.

"I am so proud of my achievements, and having served in the Army. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have served in one of the most elite fighting regiments in the world."

Hari continued: "Nevertheless, I suffered a complete loss of confidence in the aftermath. Obviously, there were my physical injuries, but I also found dealing with PTSD to be a major challenge. But I am a soldier, and I was born to fight - whether that be an enemy, or injury."

And fight he certainly has. Determined to turn adversity into opportunity, Hari made it his personal mission to find out what he was still able to do physically after losing both legs. And the list of sports he's dabbled in over the last four years is barely believable: sky-diving, alpine skiing, biathlon, archery, wheelchair table tennis, kayaking, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair hockey, javelin and more.

Yet it is climbing which he has taken a particular shine to, and, in September 2017, Hari made history by becoming the first double amputee to summit Mera Peak in the Himalayas - an altitude of just under 6,500 metres (21,300 ft).

However, not content with this incredible achievement, Hari has set his sights on scaling the biggest peak of them all: Mount Everest. The Nepalese government banned double amputees (and blind people) from climbing local mountains above 6,500 metres last December. However, after taking the issue to Geneva, he (with the help of friends and disabled associations) won his case in the Supreme Court of Nepal. As such, he and his team will be heading for Everest in 2020.

"Climbing Everest is a dream for me, and, whatever happens, it will be a record that can never be taken away," Hari explained, adding that no double amputee has even attempted it before. "I am fully aware of the risks, and every step will be a struggle. I may come back from it with even worse injuries, or not even come back at all. But I know we can do this, and I'm already looking forward to it."

First though, there is the comparatively small, but otherwise significant matter of competing in the Simpson Cup. Golf was a game which caught Hari's eye after the injury, but he didn't even know how, or where, to start. However, he later heard about On Course Foundation (OCF), and, after hitting a ball for the first time at an event at the London Club, he was hooked.

He later went to Orlando for warm weather practice with OCF, and has continued to be a part of the charity's regular events. He now plays off a 26 handicap, and his joy at representing Team GB at Maidstone next month is evident.

"Playing golf felt awkward at first; figuring out how to balance on my prosthetics, and trying to hold the club," the 39-year old grins. "But it has become a big part of my life, and I have OCF to thank for that. The experiences I've had, the courses I've played - I've been very lucky.

"It's also a great way to meet people, catch up with old comrades, and to share banter. It's done wonders for my self-confidence - it gave me the confidence to start climbing - and to be able to play for GB in the Simpson Cup in New York next month is a huge honour."

Away from the course, Hari is a husband and a father of three, who spends much of his time running a property portfolio business in the UK. Yet he isn't just a beneficiary of charities. Hari also does plenty of charity work of his own, and is determined to give something back - both in Britain, and his former home of Nepal. Coupled with his adventure sports, it all amounts to a rather full diary. This is clearly a man hellbent on making the most of every single day.

“I have a choice," he says. "I can sit at home and rot to die, or explore the full potential of life, and live to the full. I survived physically, mentally and financially. For me, I will now live the rest of my life making a difference. I believe our life is more valuable than just surviving.”