The men and women of the British Armed Forces Team have been in training, planning and preparations for the Invictus Games for more than four months, so it was absolutely no surprise to anyone that when the bus rolled up at 07:00 our competitors were ready, waiting and raring to go, regardless of the early morning!
The first day of training brought with it a nice opportunity to really scope out the competition for the first time, so many of our competitors not only gave their all during their sessions, but stayed on after in order to watch other nations training. As expected, the Americans are looking strong, especially in Wheelchair Basketball and Sitting Volleyball! We heard that today was the first opportunity that the Italians had a chance to come together to play Wheelchair Rugby, so considering that, they were also looking pretty good!
However, the absolute best part of the day has been interacting with the other nations; having a laugh, a bit of banter and making new friends. The overarching theme of the day has definitely been ‘brothers in arms’ as it is blindingly obvious to pretty much everyone that whilst each competitor comes from very different backgrounds, each with their own unique story and difficulties, they stand united; united by dedication, determination, grit, service, pride, passion and, ultimately, a can-do attitude.
Lunch time brought with it a particularly special moment for our Sitting Volleyball Team (and Gus!) to meet and have a photo with the team from Afghanistan. For these guys to have fought alongside each other on the battlefield in Afghanistan, it was particularly poignant for them to stand alongside each other in a moment of peace, harmony and friendship before the sporting battles begin later in the week!
Friendly banter and chats aside, our British Armed Forces Team is here to win, and to do that they need to train, and train they did! With sessions in practically every sport taking part across at least three different venues in Greater London the British Team was out in force.
Our Sitting Volleyball Team caused quite a stir with the Americans as they had all heard about ‘this tall, dark-haired girl with a mean serve’ – clearly they were talking about our very own Sam Bowen. Apparently, her reputation precedes her and half the teams are a little worried about being on the receiving end of one of her famous serves; clearly our guys & girls are already getting under our competitors' skin.
Another one of our competitors that other nations were keen to see in training was our mighty Micky Yule, who comes to the Invictus Games fresh from the Commonwealth Games, where he placed an impressive 4th in his Powerlifting competition. Clearly, he is going to be one to watch, so make sure you have your TVs set to record!
The end of the day’s training brought with it a visit from HRH Prince Harry, who has driven and championed these Games from day one. To have such a well-respected and well-liked member of the royal family visit training was a real moral boost for all of the Invictus Games competitors, and a reminder to them all that he really does care and is interested in their lives and stories. British Armed Forces Team member Sgt. Craig Gadd was lucky enough to have a bit of chat with Prince Harry, and he says: “It was great to meet Prince Harry again, especially after everything he has done to bring the Invictus Games to London. I just hope that the British Armed Forces Team can do him proud in the competition and get a good result in the medal table; no pressure then!”
This evening looks set to be full of more sport, as our competitors have a well-deserved rest and gather to watch the England – Switzerland football match! One thing is for sure, sport lives in the heartbeat of each and every one of our British Armed Forces Team – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.