If you’ve never heard of the Invictus Games, don’t feel badly. I likely wouldn’t have either if Toronto hadn’t been host to the Games for the past week.
These Games were the brainchild of Prince Harry – of the British Royal Family fame – after visiting the Warrior Games in the US in 2013. The first games were held in London in 2014, followed by Orlando, Florida in 2016.
Invictus is a Latin word for unconquerable, and to quote the Invictus Games Foundation website:
Many Servicemen and women suffer life-changing injuries, visible or otherwise, whilst serving their country. How do these men and women find the motivation to move on and not be defined by their injuries?
The Invictus Games are a multi-sport competition that allows both veterans and those still in active service, to participate in games specifically geared for those wounded in duty.
I had the pleasure of attending the swimming finals and it was every bit of emotional as I expected it would be. There were 4 categories in each event, based on the level of injury, and the competition was impressive.
Ok – it was actually jaw-dropping. Although Husband is a long distance swimmer and not a sprinter, even he admitted he could never match these 50-metre times.
Many participants needed assistance in or out of the water. Blind swimmers were escorted around the pool area, and those with hearing loss had a team member in the starting block to tap them when the starting buzzer sounded.
There was an aspect to this competition I’ve seen only in long-distance events like Ironman. As if it was even possible, the cheering for the last place person was actually louder than for the first place finisher. Participants would turn as they finished to clap and cheer those coming in behind them.
My eyes are welling up just remembering it.
Gilles and I were sitting in a large section of very enthusiastic fans from the UK. None of the 5 individuals around us had a friend or family member participating in the Games … in fact, they hadn’t even known each other until earlier in the week.
They had traveled from London just to show their support, and had been to EVERY event during the past week. In their own words, they were going home having made many new friends while they were here, and were already planning to attend next year’s Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia
It was not a nice evening to be out on the roads. It was cold, windy, and raining … the kind of Friday evening when it wouldn’t have been hard to convince ourselves to stay home with a bottle of wine.
Instead, I got to experience something that will always stay with me. I was amazed by the strength and courage of these participants … and very deeply humbled.
My very special thanks to Nancy Teixeira at My Year of Sweat for getting Gilles and I complimentary tickets to the swimming finals. Since Nancy returned to the work force, her blog has been mostly quiet, but she is still very active on Instagram at @nancytex.