Invictus Games

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Medal ceremony – Women’s 50 metre freestyle 

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.

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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.

85 comments

  1. Joanne the inspiration oozes out of this post. From the participants themselves to the crowds supporting them. I felt a throat lump tighten as you described the faster swimmers turn to cheer their slower competitors. What a brilliant way to start the day. Thanks for this ray of hope and sunshine.

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    • I can’t begin to describe how emotional it was to be a spectator at these Games. Everyone I talked to who had attended an event had the exact same reaction. It was awesome! How often can anyone say that about attending a sporting event?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joanne, I had not heard what these races represented, but knew they were coming up. I’m so glad you helped make me aware of what the Invictus Games consists of. Thank you for sharing all about the athletes and their uniquely different experiences. This brought tears to my eyes.
    When I go to big races to watch my youngest brother run, I watch the participants who have challenges. Probably due to my nine years of teaching preschoolers with developmental delays. I had such diverse diagnoses in those years, but our gym teacher knew how to enhance and suggest activities where they felt successful. He had taught special needs gymnastics classes for 30 years when I left, he retired.
    Having served our countries in military service and representing in many sporting events would bring me to my feet cheering and clapping!

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  3. That sounds like an incredibly moving experience. I’m so happy that you were able to witness such a beautiful coming together of participants and spectators. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. ❤

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  4. You’re the only person who I know who’s been to the games. Fascinating account of how the athletes get to where they need to be. I hadn’t thought of that, but now that I have it makes me admire them even more.

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    • I felt the same way. For some athletes, the need for assistance was very obvious, but it took me a long while to figure out why someone would be at the starting block, slapping them on the back to ‘go’.

      On the local news, there was a piece done on the free service provided to the athletes for adjusting / repairing their prosthetics during the games. This was one of those details that sounded so obvious – once I heard of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful post, Joanne. And what a great event. I get all teary at things like this too, even when I see them on television. What a joy to be able to attend. Aside from the awe and pride for the athletes, I think these types of events say something wonderful about human beings and show us at our very best, as participants and as spectators rooting each other on. Fabulous post, my friend.

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    • Biden was at the swimming centre and participated in the medal ceremonies. I figured he was in town with Obama who had been giving a speech at the University. When I saw Biden there, I hoped Obama would also be, but didn’t see him.

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  6. I burst into tears when I read this line: “the cheering for the last place person was actually louder than for the first place finisher.” Then I read that you cried, too.

    I am so grateful to you, and by extension, I suppose, Nancy too, for sharing this event with us.

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing this post, Joanne. I hear about the Invictus Games in both the UK and now Aussie press, but it was great to read about our experience as a spectator. I had similar emotions when we attended the Paralypics in London in 2012. These people are so inspirational. And on a lighter note, we got to see Harry with your local girl, Meghan 🙂

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    • That’s so nice to hear that the media is picking up this event. I heard nothing about the Invictus until Toronto was announced as the next site. Hopefully hosting the Games this year has now changed that in Canada as well

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  8. On Tuesday I walked over to High Park to watch the cycling competition – and yes, the athletes were amazing, as were all their support teams! There was a very large contingent from France and another large one from Australia, along with a lot of Brits. I walked all around the circuit and the volunteers were unfailingly helpful and cheerful – even in that terrible heat & humidity! While standing at the finish line there was a crew from the BBC doing their broadcast (and being very complimentary about the venue and the turnout of supporters). I had planned on going back for more of the cycling on Wednesday but had a bit of a fall and couldn’t make it. A friend and I had also tried to get tickets for the closing ceremony but that has been sold out for ages – so well done all.

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    • Everyone I’ve heard from who was at the Closing Ceremonies said it was amazing. I always feel proud when our city can pull off a great event.

      My oldest son was also at the cycling competition and his comments echoed mine. This has been one of those events that appear to have been as meaningful for the spectators as it has been for the athletes.

      I hope your fall wasn’t serious and you are now ok.

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  9. I heard of the Invictus games a few weeks ago while watching a special on the charity work done by Princes William, Harry, and Charles ~ didn’t hear a thing about it last year when the games were held in Orlando. Glad Nancy T. was able to get you tickets.

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    • I hope that the Games get much more attention and coverage, because they certainly deserve it.
      On the other hand, it would be even better if the reason for them was no longer necessary.

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  10. Joanne, I can only imagine the impact these incredible athletes have on the spectators lucky enough to witness their achievements. Just watching the closing ceremonies, I hope that each & every one of the participants in these games came away feeling victorious!

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  11. Wow! What an experience for everyone involved. I had not heard of this, only heard that word and sports with regards to the movie.
    Thanks for sharing this moving and inspiring event!

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    • I was actually thinking about you when I wrote this post … about how wonderfully lucky you were to have the Mister return home uninjured. It’s equally hard and challenging for the families. During the awards ceremonies, so many of them had their children with them.

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          • Spinal fusion has its own permanent limitations, and all I can tell you about PTSD is that getting better is possible. Add a host of other problems, none of which are uncommon for service members and you get New Normals. But there are worse things.

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  12. Sounds like an incredible experience, even just watching from the sidelines.
    I’d heard of the Invictus Games before but didn’t know much about what it actually was. Also didn’t know it’s coming to Australia next year. Maybe I’ll go…

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  13. He-Man was a Marathon and Triathon participant for decades and watching him train, and compete in those events was amazing. I can only imagine how much harder and sweeter the experience is for those with disabilities. How inspiring these games must be. It sounds awesome!

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  14. The Ironman is one competition that makes me cry every single time . (And you’re right – the crowd cheers even more loudly for the final finishers.) Sounds like I would need to bring a box of Kleenex to these games. Thanks for sharing. Great post!!

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  15. I keep hearing about the Invictus Games this past week and didn’t know what it was and didn’t even bother to find out. Thank you for educating me about the games. It sounds like a very inspiring even to attend or watch. You brought tears to my eyes with your descriptions. Thank you for that! I’ll be sure to watch for more news about the games and I’ll find some videos on you tube. Now I am interested in witnessing this in some small way.

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    • I can’t help it, but my eyes keep welling up too. It reminds me of one of my first triathlons many years ago. It was a sprint distance – 750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run. As I was nearing the finish line (feeling half dead I might add), a competitor was just starting out on the run. He had cerebral palsy and was doing the 5k on crutches.
      I waited for quite a while around the finish line, and as he got closer to the finisher chute, you could hear the sounds of cheering in the distance. The finish line was packed with people when he finally came through … and there were a lot of teary faces.
      The human spirit is strong when given a chance ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I have to admit, I never heard of “Invictus Games,” and now I am glad you went, so you could tell me (us) all about it. I have been once in my lifetime to a Paralympic event and the audience was similar. The last one got cheered for as loud as the first one, and I think that’s why I remember it so well.

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    • It leaves a warm and fuzzy feeling, doesn’t it? I can’t think of a downside for anyone – participant, volunteer, or spectator.

      I’ve been to a lot of sporting events, but this one was right up there as an OMG moment. I’m SOOO glad I went … in spite of my grouchiness about walking much too far from the parking lot to the venue, in the rain. As soon as I walked in, I felt the weight of my petty irritation.

      Liked by 1 person

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