HAVING recently competed in the Invictus Games, and appearing on the front cover of The Gazette, Karen Fisk is one of Basingstoke’s notable sporting faces.

Almost exactly a month ago, Karen was on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia, competing in the Invictus Games, founded by Prince Harry for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel or veterans.

She made a sensation online after being helped across the finish line by one of her Team UK teammates, Mike Matthews, as they completed their cycling races.

Speaking to The Gazette, Karen said: “It reached the point where I just couldn’t stop, there were so many people cheering for me and for my fellow competitors.

“There was a steep hill before the straight to the finish line and that is why it was so tough, but everyone of all nationalities, the Americans, the Australians, were screaming in support.

“It was a new experience and good fun, I really enjoyed it.”

Even though the pair were competing in two different races, they managed to help each other to get to the finish.

Cycling competitively was a new experience for Karen this year, having not cycled since she was younger.

Karen added: “When I was a teenager, I used to do a lot of cycling, but I lost interest in it.

“After competing in the Warrior Games in my main sports of throwing and swimming, I thought I wish I could do the cycling, and I had my old bike.

“When I got on it, it didn’t feel safe. I couldn’t keep my balance.”

Karen has multiple sclerosis (MS), which affects her ability to ride a standard bicycle.

Karen said: “After getting in contact with Help for Heroes, they managed to get me a meeting with a few trainers, and have a try on a recumbent bike, which felt better.

“After that, someone said I should try out the cycling more seriously, and then I managed to get on to the team.”

In Sydney, Karen managed to beat her personal bests in all the events in which she took part: recumbent cycling time trial, recumbent cycling criterion, 50m swimming freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke, the seated shot put and discus.

However, her success in Sydney marks the end of an impressive career of competition, as now Karen is looking to focus on her home life.

Karen added: “I’ve had to juggle training for my events with a part-time job, which was hard.

“My wife is superwoman, being able to put up with me training and helping to raise the children while I am training.

“Now, my sporting pursuits are going to be recreational, I’ll still be cycling and swimming, which is my favourite sport.

“It’s great, I don’t feel disabled at all in the water, I can focus on the swimming and nothing else.”

Before becoming an athlete, Karen spent 14 years in the Royal Navy as a weapons engineer before being medically discharged in September 2015.

During her time on service, Karen was in the South Atlantic with the HMS Endurance, as well as being on other vessels.

Karen said: “It was a good life in the Navy, we were pirate-chasing the Gulf, doing all sorts wherever we were needed. You became very well-travelled in the Navy.

“I always wanted to be in the Navy, I took a public service course at college, and my dad was a submariner.”

In 2012, Karen married her wife Kat, which was the same year that the diagnosis of MS came through.

Karen explained: “I was struggling then, and the diagnosis was a relief in a strange way, to know that something was wrong, but that was replaced by panic that there was a problem.

“Life has gone on, and the challenge became achieving a work/life balance.

“But fitness has made the fatigue feel better.”

What is next for Karen? In the New Year, she is hoping to become an ambassador for the Invictus Games and for Help for Heroes, the charity that helped her so much.

Karen said: “Help for Heroes really helped me a lot, and I want to help people like me to come and have a go at sport.

“It is really nice to have someone who is just like you to talk to, and now I want to get involved in helping others.

“I’ve made so many friends through this, and I want to promote disability and show what can be done.

“I also want to get involved locally and concentrate energy into helping others, if I can use my power, then I am going to do my best.”

In the meantime, the next big event is Christmas at her Brighton Hill home with her wife and two children, Taylor, three, and Emily, one.