Invictus Games Orlando 2016: 11 May Highlights

Invictus Games Orlando 2016: 11 May Highlights

Inspired. Motivated. Determined. Unconquered. Those are the words that sum up the epic performance of the UK Team so far through out the Invictus Games. No doubt it will continue today and be reflected in the incredible number of medals being brought back home!


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 © Roger Keller | Help for Heroes

The achievements of our competitors in the pool will leave a lasting impression on their lives and amongst the families, friends and general supporters who watched them overcome their injuries and wounds in front of their very eyes. With the warm sun shining down brightly on the pool, swimmers surged through the water chasing medals in the 50m freestyle, 50m backstroke, 50m breaststroke, 100m freestyle, and mixed 4x50m freestyle relay events. The swimmers did not disappoint and exceeded all expectations, winning a total of 46 medals; 19 gold, 17 silver and 10 bronze.

There were too many highlights to name them all but a few deserve special mention. Former Senior Aircraftman in the RAF, Mike Goody, picked up four golds for the 50m freestyle, 50m backstroke, 100m freestyle and the 4x50m relay with a bronze in the breaststroke. Former Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Zoe Williams won three golds for the 50m and 100m freestyles, 50m breaststroke and a silver in the 50m backstroke.

Mike explained: “I came here with a bit of pressure on my shoulders trying to defend what I achieved in London 2014. Now, I just feel ecstatic. We dominated in the pool and it was such an amazing morning. All the training has paid off and I’m so pleased. Team spirit amongst us swimmers is so high and we are just thrilled with how we’ve all done. The Invictus Games means so much to each and every one of us, regardless of where we are in our recovery or what our injuries are, and we showed that passion in the pool.”

Zoe added: “I saw some friends competing in the Invictus Games in London in 2014 and it really inspired me to want to be involved. Coming away with three Golds and a Silver is more than I could have asked for, I’m just so happy. The Invictus Games are important as sport is such a good way for people to regain their confidence. Being able to achieve things in training and competition, that you never thought you’d be able to achieve, gives you the confidence to transfer to other aspects of your life. I believed in myself and I’m walking away so happy with what I’ve done today.”

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© Roger Keller | Help for Heroes

UK Invictus 2016 Captain David Wiseman led from the front, securing gold medals in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and mixed relay – the race which provided a fitting climax to the swimming competition as the team of David, Gus Hurst, Mike Goody and Corporal Luke Reeson stormed to victory.

David explained: “I couldn’t be any prouder of the team today. We showed that we are not going to be defined by our injuries, because we are Invictus. We fought together, recovered together, and are now competing together. That is what makes Invictus Games epic.”

Other multiple medallists included former RAF Flight Lieutenant Fiona Bullen, who is competing in her first Invictus Games and secured one gold and two Silvers, and gold medal winner and former Army Major, Catherine Nightingale. One of the biggest cheers of the morning from the UK camp was when Susan Warner, a veteran Royal Navy Senior Nursing Officer, stood on the podium to collect her bronze medal for the 50m backstroke. “I just can’t believe it, everyone was cheering so loudly and I had to pinch myself that it was for me. I’m so happy and it is a moment to cherish.”

The team got together at the end of the event for a group celebration – only to throw coach Steve Fivash into the pool!

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© Roger Keller | Help for Heroes

Wheelchair Tennis

Before the crowds flocked to watch the Wheelchair Rugby bronze medal match, they got to enjoy more UK action when Andrew McErlean and Alex Krol took on a Netherlands pair in the Wheelchair Tennis semi-final. After their difficult match against the USA in the previous round, which they managed to closely win 7-6, expectations were high that the boys would make it through against their less-experienced opponents. The result was true to form as they secured a 6-2 victory without ever looking in trouble. They had clearly been on the practise court with coach Kevin Simpson over the past few days and looked more relaxed on court, showing off their talent with some wonderful sliced backhands and topspin forehand winners. They will now play the final against the New Zealand pair tomorrow (Thurs 12th May).

Alex explained: “After our tense match in the earlier round it was good to get this one under the belt a little easier and build our confidence. We have worked hard for this and will come out on top form tomorrow, giving it all we’ve got. We work well as a team and want to win Gold for each other as much as for ourselves.”

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© Roger Keller | Help for Heroes

Wheelchair Rugby

Semi-final vs. Denmark

The second title campaign for team sports came to its calling as the UK wheelchair rugby team headed out for their semi-final against Denmark. Ten competitors sat shoulder to shoulder in the tunnel, many new faces having just taken up the sport backed up by a few old hands from the 2014 Invictus Games. The guys were relaxed; they had seen the Danes train and went into the match knowing sticking to their game plan was the key to victory with a ticket to the final as a prize.

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© Roger Keller | Help for Heroes

The match started with a very early goal by Denmark, the UK team were slow out of the blocks. With hugely impressive impact play by Denmark’s number 3 Mark Peters using his out and out raw pace to cut through the UK’s defence the scoring soon hit a pattern and the UK were playing catch-up throughout. With the biggest crowd yet, the UK team’s communication was faltering and their defence suffered. Halftime saw a score line of 15-17 with the Danes getting a cheeky score just before the buzzer.

Another slow start out of the blocks for UK meant a few more points for Denmark. UK’s Charlie Walker was putting in a stellar performance to squeeze everything he could out from each play but after some inspired interceptions from Denmark the UK couldn’t get a handle on the game.

Incredible heart shown by the UK team throughout but unfortunately it was not to be. Although very, very close the match ended with a fair win for Denmark of 26-31 and the UK team were to battle it out against none other than the Australians for bronze!

Bronze medal match vs. Australia

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© Roger Keller | Help for Heroes

A disappointed UK team had to quickly put their hard feelings aside to roll out with their heads held high and put up a fight for the bronze medal. With a renewed feeling of determination the competitors lined up on court for an explosive encounter.
A slightly altered starting four were picked for this match but Australia hit the ground running with a nice play from the tip off to start the scoring. They were soon shown who was in charge by a monster pivot and speedy drive by UK captain Stuart Robinson bringing the game back to even at 1-1. Play after play from this point onward was dictated by the main man Charlie Walker who was simply inspired, his game management meant the Aussies were overwhelmed from the off with every pass either intercepted or blocked off… and so the unwavering onslaught by the UK team continued. Before the crowd had time to blink the score was 15-1 with huge hits coming in from powerhouse Seveci Navelinikoro and backed up by all round team unity. The Aussies got two points back before the first half was over scored by their number 4 Chris Collins making the half time score a convincing 22-3 to the UK.

Charlie Walker again made sure there was no change of momentum as the final half began. With a total personal goal tally of 20 by the 5th minute of the second half he was outclassing everyone. Aaron Dindyal made some slick breaks getting his scoresheet ticking while the Australian team were beginning to look defeated with a player in the sin bin for a foul. The points were rolling in, and with 5 minutes to go the score crept over the 40’s for UK. Michael Hutchinson made what could have been the smoothest “no-look” interception of the entire tournament which the crowd and commentator showed their appreciation for, lifting the roof here at Field House in the ESPN Wide World of Sport complex. Steven Boulton, too, got his name on the score sheet in the dying seconds bringing the game to an emphatic conclusion with a whopping 47-4 score. The bronze was brought home and provided a good antidote to the disappointment of the earlier defeat.

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© Roger Keller | Help for Heroes

An incredible display by some inspirational competitors with a steely determination to do themselves and each other proud, and boy, did they do just that.

Stuart Robinson, captain of the UK wheelchair rugby team said:

“After injury I started to look into ways to get back into sport. Before I got injured I played a lot of rugby so wheelchair rugby was something that really interested me. I started to get involved and Invictus Games London 2014 came along which really ignited my love for the game.
For a lot of the military guys and girls who are used to working as a team all the time the camaraderie sport gives makes us feel like we’re back serving our country, looking out for each other. The qualities you need to be in the military are very similar to what you need on court so it’s a fantastic way to boost your recovery.

It’s a shame we couldn’t make it a USA-UK final and we’re all feeling a bit gutted but the team are proud of what we’ve achieved out here in Orlando especially with our families watching. The future is bright for the team and let’s see what Toronto 2017 has in store!

Tomorrow sees the UK take to the court in the wheelchair tennis finals, and the wheelchair basketball semi-final. Following this is the consequential bronze & gold medal match, and the Closing Ceremony. Follow @H4H_SR for live updates and @HelpforHeroes for highlights throughout.

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