Hometown/Region: From Brescia, Italy but now lives in Truro, Cornwall
Justine grew up in Northern Italy with her Russian mum and British dad. At 13, Justine’s mum passed away from breast cancer. Her family moved to the UK, and Justine develop a passion for extreme sports. At 16, she travelled on her own to Nepal to climb Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes Trek, which was one of the best experiences of her life. She is also a member of the army cadets and has travelled to Canada, where she was an expedition leader in charge of 100 other cadets. She loves the feeling of being a leader and hopes someday to either join the army or work for the UN.
Well done, you made it to the final stage of the course. How does that feel?
I was ecstatic that I made it to the final stage but I remember also being absolutely terrified because I knew that the mental stage of the course is “unknown territory”. No regular civilian goes through an interrogation phase or anything similar in their life really, so I didn’t know how I’d cope. This was a completely different kind of mental endurance.
Why do you think you made it so far?
I wouldn’t have made it to the final if it wasn’t for the support of the other recruits on the course, who I’ve become extremely close to. We all pushed each other and formed an incredible bond. Whenever we were sent back to the accommodation for a bit, we would always use that time to talk through tasks and encourage each other. I also think that the CrossFit training I did at CrossFit Truro undoubtedly helped me through all the physical tasks. I trained around people who were willing to push themselves to the limit every day and in training we always try to think of ways to make every workout extremely challenging, to the point where most of the tasks, physically, I could cope with. I just needed to get my mind under control.
Finally, I think that after day three I realised that there was a purpose to everything we were doing and everything the DS were teaching us so I just embraced the course and tried to enjoy it. Once I’d got my head around that and accepted the process, it all became easier.
At any point in the course, did you consider giving up? What made you continue?
There were a couple of occasions when I was close to handing my number in. The first time was when we had to carry out the chemical warfare task. I’d never experienced anything like it and thought to myself, “if I have to stay in this container a minute longer, or they make us do this again, I’m out” but I saw that everyone struggled with that task, so it made me feel better and I carried on. The second time was on day nine and at this stage, everyone who was left was hungry, cold, sleep deprived and had very little energy left, so when they asked us as a team to carry the boats two miles to the Loch and then told us we’d be getting in the water again, we were completely frozen and I really didn’t know if I had it in me to get back a second time in that water and do another drill. However, I couldn’t let my team down and I knew that with only three out of four of us left, the remaining two would have really struggled if I left the team too.
The last part of the course was the toughest and not many made it past that stage. What made you keep going?
I had to keep going because it would have been a shame to have given up after everything else we’d been through. There were only 48 hours left and I was willing to give every last bit of energy I had to push through those next few hours. Also I knew that the DS wanted to see me finish the course, as did all my family and friends back home, so I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
What was the worst part of the course for you? Why?
The worst part of the course, apart from the CS gas task I mentioned previously, was the interrogation phase. Nothing can prepare you for that phase, it’s an entirely different ball game. You have to be switched on when you are physically and emotionally absolutely drained and you are constantly on edge because you never know what’s going to happen next. On top of all that you don’t want to let the rest of the team down because if you slip up any bit of the cover story, you’ve blown it for everyone else and everyone feels the repercussions.
What was the first thing you did after you left the course?
The first thing I did was take a boiling hot shower for a good 30 minutes and then ate about two or three huge meals, along with a couple of servings of some sort of dessert and about eight bars of chocolate. Then when I got back home, I slept for about twelve hours! But I was back at my gym after two days.
Tell me about your experience on SAS: Who Dares Wins?
I haven’t been the same person since the day I left those gates. I left a completely changed person. I learnt more there than in my 18 years of life.
The first few days were the worst, but on day three, Billy gathered us all on the parade square in the middle of the night and reminded us “how lucky we were to be there” and “how many people would love to be in our spots right now.” I realised he was right. Every year I’d dreamt of being on SAS: Who Dares Wins and from that moment onwards I embraced every challenge and took it day by day and made the most of it.
That, of course, was made a whole lot easier being surrounded by some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. And despite my age gap, we all got along extremely well and they were always there to help me with absolutely anything. It’s safe to say I’ve definitely made friends for life.
Would you ever do it again?
As hard as it was, I always felt like “I had more in the tank”. I learned to embrace every challenge and absolutely loved the other recruits. So my answer is yes, in a heartbeat. I’d do it again tomorrow if I could.
What do you think you’ve learnt about yourself?
This question is easiest answered in a list form because I learned a lot!
- You ALWAYS have more left in the tank.
- It’s 90% mental, 10% physical.
- Never get complacent in life, or too comfortable. Push your boundaries constantly and get uncomfortable. That is the only way you will grow as a person.
- Surround yourself with like-minded, positive people. That is the most powerful thing you can do.
- Don’t keep feelings bottled up inside or try avoiding events from the past. We’re all human.
Has being on the series changed your life in anyway?
It definitely confirmed that I want to pursue a military career and now I don’t particularly care about what people think about me. I know what I am capable of!