First up over at Hear East for the British Armed Forces Archery Team we had an all British Army final, when Lance Bombardier Gary Prout faced veteran Corporal David Hubber in the Recurve Open Individual final. David was on form from the off with points building up fast with each bow. Number one seed Gary put on a good show with the first two sets close but David stepped up to the mark every time to take the gold 6-0, with Gary settling for silver.
Next up was the bronze medal match in the same category veteran Army Private Steve Gill from Leicestershire took an early lead with a 10 to start, securing two set points. Opponent Roger Hack from the Netherlands quickly responded to level the score. Steve regained the gap in the next set to go 3-2 up and finished in style to claim the final set and the bronze medal with a tally of 26-16.
The efforts of the British Armed Forces Archery team marked a Gold, Silver and Bronze finish, which was absolutely amazing and really gave the other competitors a competitive boost.
Moving on, the bronze medal match in the Compound Open Individual competition was another all British affair, between veteran RAF Flight Lieutenant Carl Harding from Lincolnshire and Army veteran Lieutenant Corporal Mikey Hall from North Yorkshire. Both lost out in their semi-finals to Canada and the USA respectively, but were still good enough to stay in the fight for bronze. It could not have been closer throughout as the arrows consistently landed in the nine and 10 point target rings. Mikey took a narrow lead in the latter part of the match and managed to extend that in the final end to win 145-138.
Next up was Royal Navy veteran Paul Twaites from Gloucestershire who was matched up to Italian Fabio Tomasulo in the final of the Novice Open Individual event. It was a close first set as the Italian took the lead by two points to gain two set points, he then moved into a 4-0 lead in the second set to stretch the gap between himself and the Brit. Paul looked to gain a bit of momentum in the third set as a draw saw him gain a point but it wasn’t enough to get the game back as the Italian went on to win 7-1.
Now, on to the team matches, Gus Hurst, Paul Twaites and Declan O’Halloran made up the Great Britain team against Italy’s Novice Open Team trio, Fabio Tomasulo, Roberto Punzo and Pasquale Barriera, in the bronze medal match. Great Britain took the opening set to gain two set points but Italy crept back to take a win 47-43 in the second creating a tie. Italy moved ahead of GBR to win the third set 45-41, going into the fourth with four set points to GBR’s two. Great Britain clawed back the fourth set 45-42 to take the match into a shoot off where each archer fires one arrow each with the highest combined point score winning the match. GBR finally clinched victory with a score of 23-20 to gain their bronze medal.
Up again next was the British Team’s Gary Prout, David Hubber and Gavin Watson who started the Recurve Open Team final with a win in the first set against the Netherlands gaining two set points. They extended their lead with a 47-34 point score to go 4-0 up in the second set. The British Armed Forces team ended the match in the third set with a straight win to make the final score 6-0 and claim the gold medal.
The final match of the day saw Mikey Hall, Carl Harding and Andy Phillips make up the Great Britain team in the Compound Open Team final, shooting for gold. The category differs from others in that compound bows are used, which are constructed with a system of cables and pulleys. As more precision is possible, targets are considerably smaller than the norm. The winner team is decided not in sets, as before, but purely by the total number of points scored by each team after 24 arrows over four ends. At the half way point after the second end the score was tight with GBR just leading the USA 106-104. They kept their two point lead in the third end to move up to 159-157 leaving all to play in the final stretch. Great Britain gave it all they had and gained an extra point to win the gold medal 216-213 to a home crowd bringing the roof down in the venue.
Today also saw the British Armed Forces Wheelchair Rugby Team take to the courts of the Copper Box in their quest for Gold. It was a long day for the team, with the busses leaving at 07:00 for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The first nation faced by our British Team was Denmark, who was by no means a push-over team; in fact, we won the match, but only by 5 points, so it really was very close. In many ways, it was great to go up against such a strong team in our first game as it got the blood pumping through our player’s veins and really woke them up! The final score line was 20-15 to the British Team.
Next, ur Wheelchair Rugby players were up against New Zealand, who as a country are renowned for being amazing at Rugby! The game kicked off with the New Zealanders performing a Hacka, which was such an amazing thing to watch and experience. If it was meant to intimidate our guys, it didn’t and we went out onto the court and got a try within the first minute. It really was a sign of things to come as the British Team dominated throughout the first half and were on fire in the second half, ultimately leading to success with an easy win of 17-8, which secured their place in the semi-final!
Now, we can’t talk about Wheelchair Rugby and the Copper Box and not talk about the crowd, who have been 100% on the side of the British Armed Forces Team. The atmosphere was electric and jubilant and the competitors were uplifted by the 8000 British fans who roared with triumph with every try they scored. The British Armed Forces Wheelchair Rugby Team really was on fire on the courts of the Copper Box, scoring so many effortless trys. Even when the going got tough, they proudly fought for every try like the lion-hearted team that they are.
The Semi Final saw the British Armed Forces Team take on Australia and winning this match meant that we were through to the Gold Medal Match; no pressure then. Our guys and girls have adapted to playing in front of a massive crowd, with lights and noise so well; they just seem unfazed. So, it was no surprise when our team got off to a good start, quickly taking a 5-0 lead. This was quickly extended by the end of the first half to 13-3. The score slowly but steadily crept up in the second half with our British Armed Forces Team dominating in an electric atmosphere to win the match 16-6 and, with it they secured their place in the final.
In between the Semi-Final and the Gold Medal Match there was a celebrity Wheelchair Rugby Match, which saw the likes of Mike Tindall, Zara Phillips and Prince Harry take the courts to battle it out to glory. The British Team’s very own Ben Steele was selected to play alongside the celebs, and showed them how it was done when he scored early in the match and showed them how it was done! However, the glory of the first try scored went to none other than Prince Harry!
Up next was the highlight match of the day, in which the British Armed Forces took on the USA in a Gold Medal match that was full of excitement, entertainment, suspense and hard knocks. Neither team wanted to concede a single point and so each player was working at maximum capacity, leaving everything on the court.
The score line inched was level-pegged all the way; every time one team scored then the other would answer with a try of their own. With 30 seconds left on the clock the score was tied, 12-12 when Team Captain Charlie Walker made a break for it and forced his way over the line, scoring the winning try of the game. With that try, he also secured the Gold for his team.
In that moment the crowd went wild, 8000 people were on their feet, screaming their hearts out and I am sure that more than a few tears were shed then and there. I know that I was overcome with emotion when I saw the looks of pure joy on the faces of these amazing men and women that I am lucky enough to know. Over the past four months we have seen these guys and girls work so incredibly hard; we have seen them bleed, sweat and cry; we have seen them go to breaking point and then push beyond it to work harder. These men and women epitomise inspiration and they stood on the courts of the Copper Box unconquered and Gold medallists; to us, they are Invictus.