On 6th March 2014 hundreds of heroes who have suffered a life-changing injury or illness whilst in service of our country received an invitation to put their name forward to train for hopeful selection for an event called The Invictus Games.
Over 300 potential competitors registered their interest, over 260 turned up to complete 497 hours of training across 67 different training days and from that 130 people were eventually selected for the British Armed Forces Team.
Today, the hours of training, preparation and planning came together as the British Armed Forces Team gathered at the Team Hotel in central London for the start of the holding camp, ahead of Prince Harry’s Invictus Games, which start on Wednesday.
Logistically, organising the kitting-out of a 130-strong team isn’t the simplest of tasks. However, the British Armed Forces Team is blessed with an amazing core staff team who have worked hard to ensure that the process was as easy and painless for the competitors as possible. So, massive thanks go out to Brian & Anna who have led that effort for our team.
At 14:00 the previously quiet and calm hotel atrium started to come alive with competitors arriving in droves. Soon, there were members of the British Armed Forces team as far as the eye could see. Our team were already proving to be a dominating presence in the hotel that we were sharing with five other nations; surely a good thing in terms of psyching the other teams out!
For most of the competitors the day was very much about getting settled into the hotel and their rooms as well as giving them all an opportunity to get to know each other, as this was the first time that the whole team were in one place at the same time.
For two of our competitors – JJ & AJ (yes, that really happened) it was all systems go to get their kit, get checked in, eat and get to BBC Broadcasting House to record an interview for BBC Radio 5 Live. They had a great time and it was a great opportunity to get the word out that the British Team are in London and we are ready to do business!
The highlight of the evening came at 21:15 in the form of a documentary called ‘The Countdown to the Invictus Games’ on BBC 2. In it they featured four of our competitors; Team Captain Dave Henson, John James Chalmers (known simply as JJ to his friends), Paul Vice MC and Mike Goody. The overwhelming response to the documentary was that the entire country is in love with Dave’s Grandad!
On a more serious note, we have been inundated by people telling us how they watched the documentary with tears in their eyes because they were so moved and inspired by our competitor’s stories; clearly the scene has been firmly set for what will happen over the next week. You see, our incredible competitors are standing on the precipice of something truly amazing; an opportunity to inspire a nation through their astonishing achievements on the field of play where they will stand tall, stand proud and stand unconquered by the challenges they have faced to get here.
For some, the pinnacle of the week won’t be winning gold or achieving a personal best but rather simply showing up to the start line will be the bravest, hardest and most important thing they will do; moving physical, emotional and mental mountains to be involved in something so inspiring. In many ways, all of our competitors have already ‘won gold’ for they will step up to the start line and in that moment will be heroes both in the hearts of the nation and on the field of play.