‘An incredible journey’ for Invictus Games competitors with ‘lives turned upside down’


The Invictus Games are a reminder that progress doesn’t happen instantly, with competitors saying working for the event has changed people’s lives.

The Duke of Sussex founded the games to help rehabilitate injured or ill military and veterans around the world, challenging them to compete in sporting events similar to the Paralympic Games.

After being delayed by the pandemic, the next edition of the international competition will take place in The Hague from April 16-22.

The Duke of Sussex speaks to the British squad during their final training camp (Theo Cohen/Help for Heroes/PA)

(PA Media)

Daniel O’Connor, 31, from Hereford, who competes in indoor archery and rowing, was injured in 2011 and has had 13 arm and body operations in two years.

He stayed away from sports because he was so afraid of injury and had no hobbies, which caused him to “go through the motions of life”.

Mr O’Connor, now an independent financial adviser, said the Invictus Games “showed me that you can be proactive and that can give you more control over your life”.

He said he previously didn’t think about his future because he lived with chronic pain and feared it would get worse – but now he feels he can achieve a lot.

“There are still a lot of things I’m looking forward to doing. There is so much more focus on the future.

“And I think that comes from training for the sport anyway because you train, not to be the best tomorrow, you train to be the best in, say, a year, in five years, in 10 years.

“And so coming back into that element of progress is not instantaneous, you don’t want something and then it happens, you work for it.

Team UK during a training session at Brunel University (Steve Parsons/PA)

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“I think all that Invictus stuff…soldiers don’t need to be told that, but as people you have to be reminded, sometimes especially when you’ve been through hardship.

“And some of the guys there, you see the stories that they’ve been through, you kind of see what they’re living with, but then you see them at the beginning of the process and you see them as we are now and what are completely different people – they walk taller, they engage in more conversations, they don’t talk about what they saw on TV, they talk about what they did.

“And that’s a huge difference because the focus goes from other people’s lives to your own life.

“And I think that’s a really healthy way to live — not to live through other people but to actually see what you can do and focus on that,” he said.

Lucy Holt, 29, of Lincoln, who competes in powerlifting, indoor rowing, wheelchair basketball and athletics, served in the RAF for 10 years and injured her ankle in playing netball for the British Armed Forces and the RAF.

She underwent surgery in 2018, which then led to seven more surgeries, which caused her to lose 90% of movement in her ankle.

Ms Holt said Invictus had pushed her down ‘a whole new path’, adding: ‘It has definitely helped me, but to also see friends who have kind of started the whole process is very shy and at a loss. trusted and now able to see them completely upside down about to compete in the Invictus Games.

“They still have confidence issues, but they have more self-confidence, and the way it’s changed their lives is awesome.”

Jason Finlay, 50, who lives in Amesbury and competes in sitting volleyball and athletics, said the Invictus Games show there is “another path” that can be taken to aid recovery .

Mr Finlay, who left the army in 2005 for medical reasons, underwent several leg operations, had back problems and suffered from depression.

He said he felt “a bit lost”, and thinking back to one of his first training sessions, he added: “I just remember sitting next to a stranger and we We talked to such depth, not only about my physical but mental issues, and so did they.

“And it was just, it was natural and normal to be back in that military environment and even though I didn’t miss the military when I left, I did miss my comrades – the ability to be able to sit at side of anyone and trusting them, To be honest, I could open up on a deeper level than I would with most of my civilian friends, and the process just made it so much easier .

Mr Finlay added: ‘It has been an amazing journey so far and beyond.

Charity Help for Heroes is responsible for the selection, training and welfare of UK competitors.

A few weekends ago, friends and family of the British team cheered them on from the touchline at training camp, backed by the Royal British Legion.


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