The competition really kicked off today, with Preliminary rounds in Sitting Volleyball and Archery taking place throughout the day. To say that the British Armed Forces Team dominated in their specific events would be an understatement! Our amazing Sitting Volleyball team won all three of their games in straight sets, with no other team racking up more than about 15 points against them in any one game!
Our Archery team also did exceptionally well in their ranking rounds for the Recurve classification, with British Team member Gus finding himself ranked number 1. However, a lot can happen over the next few days and all of our competitors need to keep their heads in the game, and not lose their focus; let’s keep eyes on the prize, so they say!
Our Swimmers are looking strong after another great morning in the pool, with a two hour session first thing this morning. Our guys are girls are lucky enough to be training in the Aquatics Centre, which is where they will also be competing, so getting used to the pool, how the water feels and ‘how fast’ the pool is will help them when the competition starts.
A legend in the world of swimming, Joanne Jackson – Olympic bronze medallist and former 400m Freestyle World Record holder – popped by training to cheer our guys and girls on, and to give them some hints and tips. After a coaching session from an Olympian the team were buzzing and newly inspired and more determined than ever to perform well during their races come games time.
Something that our competitors have been getting used to is the amount of media interest in both the Invictus Games, and their personal stories. As a result, lots of our amazing heroes have been all over London doing interviews with newspapers, radio stations and TV stations. One of our guys, fondly known by his friends as ‘Smudge’ was on his way to do an interview with Radio 5 Live when he found himself being ‘papped’ – a new and slightly surreal experience for him!
Do look out for our guys and girls in the papers, on the radio and on TV – they have been doing everything from Good Morning Britain to BBC Breakfast, to the Lorraine Show to having double page spreads in National Newspapers, not to mention interviews on radio stations such as Radio 1, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live; I’m sure you won’t have to look far to find some media mention of a British Armed Forces Competitor!
After a busy day of training for all of our competitors, the evening offered an amazing opportunity to relax and have some fun in the second largest garden in London – the garden of the US Ambassador! All of the teams competing in the Invictus Games had been invited to attend a ‘BBQ Style’ garden party to mark the spirit of unity that is imbued in the Invictus Games. With around 3000 competitors, friends, family and staff it was certainly a lively and happy atmosphere.
After some amazing food – the American style hot dogs they served were to die for – it was time for some special guests to take to stage to share a few words with those gathered. The words spoken in a videoed address from US President Barak Obama were particularly fitting, and certainly many were moved when he said: “…your courage on the battlefield, your grit and your resilience and, when you take to the playing field, your unconquerable souls, inspire us today.”
Next up to speak was H4H Prince Harry, who was a massive hit with everyone – especially the visiting female competitors! However, at the end of his speech something happened that will quite possibly go down as the best moment of the night for many people. A tall, figure with long dark hair wandered onto the stage and offered a ‘hey Harry’ and as soon as the crowd realised who it was, they went wild. For, none other than the legendary Dave Grohl, front man of the Foo Fighters, was standing in front of an elated, excited and ecstatic crowd.
After a few words, Dave picked up his guitar and launched into ‘Times Like These’, which have some incredibly poignant lyrics, which I am sure resonated with more than a few of the wounded warriors gathered: “I’m a new day rising… it’s times like these you learn to live again…” sang Dave, and 3000 voices sang back to him.
However, for one British Armed Forces Team member, Jon ‘Frenchie’ Le Galloudec, the best moment of the night was when the Foo Fighters started strumming the opening chords to ‘My Hero’ and he was immediately transported back to another Foo Fighters gig he says: “The first year after I had been shot was really difficult for me as I was suffering quite badly with survivor guilt; getting my head around the idea that Rodney had died to save me was something I really struggled with.
“I think that the turning point for me was on the 7th June 2008, the 1st anniversary of the incident. I had gone to Wembley to watch the Foo Fighters – my favourite band – and as they started playing ‘My Hero’ I suddenly thought of Rodney and all he had done for me.
“As the song progressed I was getting more and more emotional until I was standing there, surrounded by thousands of people with tears streaming down my face. You see, it was in that moment that I suddenly realised that the best way to honour Rodney – my Hero – was to live the best life I could and never give up & that is what I have tried to do from that day onwards.”
To say the night was epic would be a totaland utter understatement. All of our competitors were blown away by the fact that Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters had turned up to play a private gig for them. Add in the fact that said gig was in the US Ambassador’s garden and everyone was on cloud-9 and buzzing all night long.
Tomorrow, it will be back to the serious business of the competition, which is, after all, why we are all here. However, for one night it was great to see our guys and girls relax, let their hair down and be treated to a ‘money-can’t buy’ experience that will live on in their hearts and minds for years to come.
So, finally, massive, massive thanks to the US Ambassador and his team and the legendary Dave Ghrol and the Foo Fighters for rocking the lives of so many of our world’s heroes; this won’t be a night that is easily topped!