Today was officially the first day of competition at the Invictus Games, and the word on everyone’s lips was Athletics. With the British Armed Forces Athletics Team looking strong, hopes were high that we would kick off our medal campaign in true style. Well, the hopes were proved true and the team came home with a whopping 29 medals in total; 16 gold, 7 silver and 6 bronze!
The first final of the day was the Men’s Ambulant IT1 100 metres, which saw two members of our British Team step up to the start line to fight for glory; Alex Tate and Kushal Limbu are both strong runners and as the starting gun went off, the crowd went wild and it seemed as if our guys were carried along faster with their words alone! It was a 1-2 finish for The British Armed Forces, with Alex taking the gold by a margin. In fact, Alex hadn’t even realised that he had won, he says: “To be honest, at first I was just thinking about how I had fallen over on national TV! So, it didn’t hit me as I hadn’t realised that I had won. Kushal was really getting his speed up and we were neck and neck at the end! I saw my coach and said ‘did I lose?’ she said, ‘no, you won! And you got a Personal Best!’ I really didn’t know what to think; when I started training for the Invictus Games I never dreamt that I’d win gold. To win in front of guys I served with in Afghanistan, my family and my friends, well, it was just crazy.”
Another highlight of the afternoon was when Veteran Royal Marine Commando Andy Grant ran to victory in the Men’s Ambulant IT1 400 & 1500 metres races. Andy took the agonising decision post injury to have his leg amputated as he believed that it would make his quality of life better. Well, today, he proved, beyond the shadow of doubt, that he truly was living beyond injury and could do anything that he set his mind to. He said: “For me to win Gold, twice, in front of thousands of the British Public, who – with Help for Heroes – have helped get me to this position was amazing. Hopefully the performances of all of the British Armed Forces Team at the Invictus Games can inspire other injured servicemen and women to embrace sport, as it plays such a huge role in recovery. For that I owe a huge amount to Help for Heroes and Prince Harry.”
Mickaela Richards, 26, from Twickenham was the top scoring woman of the day with two golds in the 100m and 400m Women’s Open IT6. Mickaela suffered a hip, pelvis and shoulder dislocation while serving with the Royal Navy and has embraced sport as a way to help her recover. She has been working hard with Roger Keller – her coach – to improve her times and technique, so was over the moon to claim gold in both of her events.
As the afternoon passed, the crowd starting asking when they would see British Armed Forces Captain Dave Henson on the Track as rumour had it that he was fast, and favourite to win gold in the 200m Men’s Ambulant IT2. Well, rumour was true and Dave stormed to victory an amazing eight seconds ahead of second place, he said: “It was so worth all of the training I have done over the past 11 months with Roger. As I crossed the finish line I thought about my friend Richard, who was killed in Afghanistan at Christmas; I’d have liked him to have seen that. To be honest, if I didn’t seize this opportunity he’d have slapped me round the face!”
However, the standout competitor of the day was, without doubt, the insanely talented Joe Townsend, who claimed victory in all four of his races, showing the world what could be achieved with some hard work, grit, determination and passion. Joe started his medal campaign in 100m Men’s Wheeled IT4 category, which he won with ease. Next up was the 200m, 400m and 1500m events. After his first race word started to spread that there was this ‘insanely fast’ guy racing in the wheeled events and every time his name was announced before each race he was greeted by roars of support. I think that he inspired every person that was at Lee Valley Athletic’s Track to be the best version of themselves; he certainly gained some fans with kids coming up to ask for slefies and autographs! However, he didn’t let any of it go to his head; when asked how he felt after winning his fourth gold he joked: “average!” before going on to say “I’m over the moon and ecstatic to represent my country. I really hope I have inspired others to achieve their maximum potential.”
Of the 33 gold medals on offer, the British Armed Forces team took 48 percent. With silver and bronze medals added, that is more than a fifth of the available medals so far! Go British Team!
Other medalists included Kushal Limbu, Sam Stocks, Luke Wigman, Dave Henson, Alex Tate, Emma Burns, Maurillia Simpson, Susan Cook, Bruce Ekman, Tom Sharpe, Matt Barlow and JJ Chalmers.
Up tomorrow, our Archery and Wheelchair Rugby Teams both compete for gold, so make sure you check back in to find out how they got on!