With the Invictus Games beginning in two days, teams from each of the 13 nations competing arrived in London this weekend. This morning Prince Harry welcomed each Captain and wished them and their teams the best of luck.
In a video message, Prince Harry said, “I’d like to extend the warmest welcome to all competitors taking part in the Invictus Games who have now arrived in London. I know how hard you’ve been working over the last few months and the British public – indeed the world – can’t wait to see you compete in just a few days time in our nation’s capital city. To anyone else still thinking about buying tickets to the Games – don’t hesitate. It’s going to be an inspirational event and you won’t want to miss out.”
On behalf of the home nation, the British Armed Forces Team Captain Dave Henson extended a welcome message to the other teams saying, “There’s a whole international community of ‘brothers in arms’ who refuse to be beaten by their injuries and we want to show people what we can do. The unique thing about the Invictus Games is that we’ve got guys and girls from 13 nations doing just that and it’s great they’re now here and ready to go. There are some familiar faces but most of us are meeting for the first time. There’s already been some friendly banter; the competition is well and truly on!”
Captain Dave Henson is a former Royal Engineers Captain from Southampton and was injured by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) during a clearing operation in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. In true warrior fashion, loosing both legs at the knee does not stop him as he goes for Gold in the 100m and 200m at Lee Valley Athletics Centre this Thursday before taking his place on the Sitting Volleyball Court in the Copper Box Arena, at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP), on Sunday.
Prince Harry was inspired to create the Invictus Games for wounded, injured and sick UK soldiers after a visit to the United States and participating in the US “Warrior Games”. The Captain of the US Armed Forces team, Sergeant Major Chris Self joked, “Prince Harry has been the driving force behind this so it was awesome to meet him today. He wished us all the best of luck, so I hope he doesn’t mind too much when we take plenty of medals back with us! There’s a real buzz now; it’s great to finally be here in this amazing city and to weigh-up the competition. We can’t wait for the chance to take on the Brits and others on the global stage that hosted the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The Invictus Games are being organised with the support and backing of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and the Ministry of Defence. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Lee Valley Athletics Centre will host the events thanks to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, the London Legacy Development Corporation, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, DCMS and Sport England.
A brief look at the team captains
Sergeant Major Chris Self, Captain of the US Armed Forces Team. The 47-year-old from Clarksville, Tennessee was serving with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Baghdad on his third tour of Iraq when, three days after Christmas 2005, he was shot in both legs. Nerve damage caused the loss of function of his right foot and he later chose to have his lower leg amputated. He returned to active duty and made a further two tours of Iraq before retiring in 2013 after a 27-year Army career. He hopes to kick-start a US medal-haul when he competes in the 1500m at Lee Valley Athletics Centre on Thursday ahead of Road Cycling at the Lee Valley VeloPark on QEOP this Saturday.
New Zealand-born Captain of the Australian Armed Forces team, Sapper Curtis McGrath.The 25-year-old from the South Island spent time either side of the Tasman Sea as a child before making the move to Brisbane to become a Combat Engineer. He was on leave at the 2011 Rugby world Cup when he got the call telling him he was going to Afghanistan. There, clearing an unoccupied police checkpoint in the north area of Uruzgan, he stepped on an IED and lost both legs. After eight days in intensive care in Germany and two and a half months in Royal Brisbane Hospital he got his prosthetic legs, promising himself he would learn to use them before his section returned just one week later; he was standing to meet them off the plane. “We all need the exposure to challenges in life because that is how we learn to overcome adversity and rise to the occasion,” he says.
Chelsea fan Corporal Tarmo Lepik, Captain of the Estonian Defence Forces team. The 27-year-old from Tallinn was injured by an IED in 2011 while on patrol in Helmand Province. He spent time in Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre near Leatherhead in Surrey, during his rehabilitation before returning to service with the Estonian Defence Forces. He swims at least three times a week and says the chance to compete in the iconic London Aquatics Centre next Sunday is a dream come true.
Maurice Lindegaard Manuel, Captain of the Danish Armed Forces team. In 2010 the 37-year-old from Glostrup was on his sixth deployment and serving as an interpreter and cultural effects advisor for the Danish Battalion with the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province when he stepped on an IED. His right lower leg was amputated in 2011 as a result of his injuries. A member of the Danish national Wheelchair Basketball team, he will lead his team out at the Copper Box Arena next Saturday. “The Invictus Games is an experience and opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime,” he says.
Lieutenant Colonel Gianfranco Paglia, Captain of the Italian Armed Forces team. In 1993 the pilot trainee-turned paratrooper was in Somalia on his first tour overseas when he was one of 22 men wounded in an incident which claimed the lives of three of his unit. “Each one of us has already won a major battle, because we are still alive,” he says. “London (the Invictus Games) is a challenge; the importance lies in being able to fight for something and I reckon we’re all extremely good at this.” He will compete in Cycling, Powerlifting, Indoor Rowing, Wheelchair Rugby and Swimming.
Last Minute Tickets can be purchased on-line at the Invictus Games http://www.invictusgames.org
Photo Credit: Invictus Games 2014