For those who have suffered a life-changing injury or illness there is a real physical, mental and emotional benefit of playing sport. For our guys in Texas you can see the benefits everywhere you look. Some of our potential Invictus Games competitors have had to deal with bad pain, anxiety, worries or problems with their stumps/limbs. However, the moment they pick up a volleyball or basketball everything but the sport melts away; in that way, Sport is incredibly healing, and that is a powerful thing.
Our amazing heroes started the day eager to give everything they had to the last day of competition and went in their first matches with a can-do attitude. First up was our Wheelchair Basketball players, who were facing the US Air Force team. Each team put in awesome and gutsy performances and at the end of the 1st half were tied 6 – 6. Going in to the second half our team rallied and pushed hard, making the US Air Force fight for every point they scored – clearly this game could go either way. The final score line was 19 – 18 to the US Air Force and our guys came off the court disappointed with the result, but proud of their performances, and rightly so.
Over on the Sitting Volleyball Court, our guys and girls were putting in a solid performance again Team USA. Our team were on fire and really starting to connect and move as a team and decisively took the win in two straight sets.
Over on the Basketball court, our guys were warming up to take on the might of the US Army, which would be a hard match. Led by David Scott, our Basketball players brought a real energy and focus to the game, leading the scoreboard at the end of the 1st half. In the second half, the US Army team really took things up a notch, and dominated the court, showing their experience as a team. The final score line was 42 – 28, but we couldn’t have been more proud of our team, who put everything they had into each game.
At the same time, our Sitting Volleyball players were in the throes of their second match against the US Air Force, who had beaten our guys yesterday. This was the game that we needed to win! The first set was tense, with each team not giving an inch. The Scoreboard inched along with almost equal scores until we got to 24 -24; the next point would take the 1st set. Our guys were in the zone and decisively took the final point to take the 1st set. Winning the 1st set against such a fierce US Air Force Team put our team on a real high, and they rode that all the way to victory over their greatest competitors to qualify them for the Gold Medal Match.
After such an effort it was definitely time for lunch and a much-needed breather! Now that our Basketball players had completed all of their matches, they were able to unwind and enjoy the afternoon and that started with a spontaneous game of Sitting Volleyball. I call it a game, but well, really it was a bunch of us who hadn’t played Sitting Volleyball before trying really hard not to look too terrible as we somehow had managed to attract quite the crowd! One thing is for sure, we all had a new found respect for our Sitting Volleyball players; we were all exhausted and sweaty by the end!
During our entire sports tour, our guys and girls have attracted respect, kindness and friendships with our US counterparts and at lunch time, we secured perhaps our youngest supporter; an adorable little girl who couldn’t have been much older than six or seven. She and Danni had great fun playing in a couple of wheelchairs!
After lunch, our Basketball players were in for a real treat as the San Antonio Spurs were taking on the Harker Heights Hustlers to fight it out for the top spot. The opportunity to watch a NBA Wheelchair Basketball team in action wasn’t lost on our guys and they were all glued to the match, picking up hints and tips at every turn.
Now, finally, it was time for our most important match of the day – the Sitting Volleyball Gold Medal Match. In this match, our guys were once again facing our biggest rivals; the US Air Force. For us, it seemed perfect that it was our hosts we were playing against to fight it out for Gold and Silver.
Our British Armed Forces team, and the US Air Force team really wanted to win this match and every point was going to be hard fought – no one was going to be giving this game away!
The score line crept up point by point, with each teams staying fairly level points wise. This time, the US Air Force managed to get that all important set point, taking them through to the 2nd set one set up. We needed to win the 2nd set to stay in the game. As ever, our amazing heroes rose to the challenge and gave everything to the 2nd set, which paid off as they won it 25 -12.
Now, everything was going to come down to the 3rd and final set. The first team to 15 points would take the game, and with it the gold. Our boys and girls were hungry for the win & Player/Coach Charlie did an amazing job of giving a good pep talk and really shaping the level and calibre of play in the third set. Once again, the set started with each team securing points where they could and the score line was predictably close. By the time we were leading 8 -7 our team’s supporters could hardly breathe, this was such a close-fought match and we really wanted our team to take the win!
You could see the hunger in the eyes of each and every player on the British Armed Forces Team, and with a renewed determination, all our team dug deep for the final push to victory. Then, suddenly, they had done it… they’d only gone and won Gold at the US Air Force’s Summer Invitational! The team went wild!
To watch people that have become friends over the course of the week take Gold was such an immense privilege and we couldn’t have been prouder of our lion-hearted team!
To close the day and the Summer Invitational, all of the teams took part in a small closing ceremony, which is where our guys and girls got their gold medals, which they wore with pride! After such an exciting day under our belts, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for a team celebration meal of Pizza!
Amazingly, the fun and excitement doesn’t stop there. Tomorrow some of our guys and girls have been invited to go and train with none other than the insanely talented and all round nice guy, Rico Roman and also Jen Lee Horitius, Roman’s team mate on the 2014 Sochi Gold Medal Winning Paralympic Sledge Hockey Team. Roman and Jen both play for an Operation Comfort Team, who train on a Friday and after hearing how much our guys love Sledge they invited us to train with them, followed by a lunch so everyone has a chance to get to know each other! Then, in the evening we've had VIP tickets donated to the team to watch a pro woman's NBA basketball team compete!
So, make sure you check in again tomorrow to see how we all got on!
Until tomorrow lovely readers,
If you'd like to support our heroes along their sporting roads to recovery then you can donate to Help for Heroes Sports Recovery. Either, visit http://www.bmycharity.com/h4hsportsrecovery and leave a donation of your choice, or text SPORT to 70900 to donate £5. 100% of the £5 comes to Help for Heroes. (You will be charged £5 plus your standard network rate. Mobile networks helpline: 01494 750 500)