Another hugely successful day at Invictus Games for the UK Team on and off the field. With the medals pouring in, take a look at Monday's best bits, and wish all the athletes the best of luck for the rest of the week!
Credit: Roger Keller | Help for Heroes
Sarah Claricoates, a Royal Navy veteran, claimed the UK’s first medal of the Invictus Games 2016; a bronze in powerlifting; a sport she only tried for the first time three days ago. UK women were under-represented in the lightweight category so Sarah was asked to give it a go and walked away with a medal after lifting 31kg!
Sarah said: “I’m over the moon, I’m on a massive high. The atmosphere and encouragement from everyone is amazing. I feel very humbled to be here; I have Multiple Sclerosis but the company I’m in and stories that go with it are just incredible. What an amazing opportunity; I’m just so proud.”
Her powerlifting teammates did not disappoint as they followed her valiant effort and upped the stakes with bigger lifts in the heavyweight class. Nerys Pearce claimed a silver medal with a magnificent lift of 73kg.
Nerys Pearce said: “This is the end of a very long journey. My start was getting out of the house after injury. It’s only in the last 15 months that I’ve been getting out and about since getting injured in 2008."
“There’s something magical about sport; it gives you a reason to get up. You’re inspired to push harder and try harder. We train together and we laugh, and cry, as a team. You lose that when you leave the military but I’ve found that in this team.”
On to the men and the mighty Micky Yule was in a competition of his own in the lightweight class. His final lift of 190kg gave him the gold 70kg clear of his nearest Estonian rival.
Micky said: “It means more to me that my teammates have done so well than winning myself. I’ve been coaching them and whatever they’re dealing with, they’re just getting on with it and we’ve seen so many personal bests. Whatever your goals are, you can achieve them at the Invictus Games.”
The men’s heavyweights followed suit. It was a UK one, two, three with Sean Gaffney claiming gold, Ross Austen in silver position and Ian Taylor receiving a bronze medal joint with France.
Sean Gaffney said: “I’m very happy. I’ve had so much support from the team and our coach has unbelievable amount of energy, drive and passion that infects all us. You can’t help but give him anything but your best. Hopefully I’ve rewarded him suitably.”
A total of six medals in four categories made coach Ben Richens very proud of his team: “I haven’t worked with a bunch of athletes as dedicated with as much focus as these guys before. Whether they’ve medalled or not, they’ve all done better than I could ever have dreamed.”
On the cycling track, a team of forty UK cyclists delivered 24 medals for the UK Invictus team on the first official day of competition; a phenomenal effort which got the Invictus Games off to a spectacular start.
Team road cycling kicked-off in high gear as UK cyclists took to the track in blazing sunshine. The cycling action featured two events; a one-minute time trial of .97-mile sprints and a criterium event featuring multiple classes. Separate medals were awarded for three road bike classes, one tandem class, two hand bike classes and one recumbent bike class.
Fans crowded around the starting line to cheer on the competitors, with the audience growing as the time trials and criterium rolled on. UK set the bar high early in the morning winning Gold (Rob Cromey-Hawke), Silver (Paul Vice) and Bronze (Michael Matthews) in the recumbent bike class.
Speaking after winning his silver medal former Royal Marine Paul Vice, who has a traumatic brain injury and left leg amputation, said: “When I competed in London 2014, I had both my legs. Now I’m achieving even better things with an amputation. That sums up the Invictus spirit to me; that there are no limits on what you can achieve. Succeeding in the face of adversity and carrying on despite setbacks is what the military is all about and I feel I’ve achieved that today. To stand on the podium with Rob and Michael made the experience even more special. We’ve come to the Americans’ back yard and we are showing them how it’s done.”
The races turned out to be nail-biters across the board, but none more so than the criterium. Having won gold earlier in the day in the time trial, Army veteran Jaco Van Gass, who has a left arm amputation, was overtaken on the home straight by compatriot Craig Preece.
Jaco said: “The crowd were fantastic and to come away with two medals feels amazing. What we achieved on the cycling track today as a team is unbelievable. Invictus is such a unique competition, where we all come together, from across all nations, to celebrate our lives beyond injury. It gives you goosebumps to be out there competing.”
Throughout the morning, the medals kept rolling in for the UK team, including for former Army Major Jen Warren who was emotional after winning gold in the time trial (handbike) and silver in the criterium, recording personal best times. “There is so much more to competition than winning, it is about doing something you never thought you could do. I am just thankful to be a part of something as incredible as the Invictus Games,” she said.
Flt Lt Nathan Jones was leading heading onto the home straight in the Road Bike race but fell off his bike with just 100metres to go. Andy Perrin won the race, closely followed by Michael Westwell. Michael, a former Aircrew Sergeant in the RAF, said: “We are a close knit team and our hearts go out to Nathan. He deserves to be on the podium with us. Orlando holds special memories for me, it is where I got engaged seven years ago. Coming back feels extra special.”
Other cycling medallists included Josh Boggi, Donna Davies, Sally Orange, Dave Sandles and Joanna Martin.
Medals just kept coming in the indoor rowing competition as more and more athletes racked up gold, silver and bronze.
Gus Hurst and Josh Boggi claimed two golds each in the four minute race and the one minute sprint in their classifications. Sean Gaffney, Jordan Beecher, John Prosser and Nerys Pearce were all rewarded with one gold and one silver each, while Scott Meenagh won a gold and bronze, Laura Knowles a silver and bronze, and Joanna Martin a silver.
Jordan Beecher, who won double gold at the London Invictus Games, said: “I’m really chuffed to have kept the gold medal in the four minute race. Sean is a big guy with a massive engine and training with him I always knew he was my competition but I’m not going to cry over getting the silver in the one minute against him. We’re setting the standard for the Games with the medal count today.”
John Prosser commented: “I’m elated and very emotional. When I was rowing I was just focused on the task, I blocked the noise out. You know the pain will take care of itself if you just focus on the end result.”
Laura Knowles said: “I get a sense of purpose and empowerment when I’m doing sports. I get told all the time that I can’t do stuff, but you come to the Invictus Games and you prove you can.”
UK archers entered their finals knowing that they were guaranteed four medals after a great display of skill at the semi-finals. It was a late night on the archery range but the team stayed focused and support from spectators was still strong.
In the individual matches, three ends of three arrows are all it took to decide the medal winners. Martin Clapton was first on the range, claiming a bronze against Canada in the novice recurve event. Sgt Gareth Paterson stepped things up a notch in the next match to gain a gold, also against Canada, in a very close few sets.
LCpl Angelito Barbierato and Chris MacFadyen then stepped up the shooting line to battle each other in open recurve. They knew they would both medal, but in which order? Barbierato claimed gold and MacFadyen silver in a good spirited match.
On to the team matches; both Sgt Gareth Paterson and Martin Clapton were back on the range with Matthew Elliot making up the trio for the novice recurve gold medal match. It started off tense but the UK soon increased the lead and took the win.
A delighted Sgt Paterson said: “It’s not easy for any of us getting here, but to be here and win gold twice over is just incredible. The Invictus Games are inspirational, motivational and prove that it isn’t over if you have a life-changing injury.”
The next trio on the shooting line were Barbierato and MacFadyen, this time forming a team, with third member Carl Tarry facing France in the open recurve. Similar to the last match, it started tight, but the stamina of the UK team paid off and they pulled away winning the gold medal.
The last match and last medal of the day to be won was in the bronze open compound category against France. By this point Monday had turned into Tuesday and yet the archers spurred on. Andy Phillips, Jon Flint and Daniel Grobler made up the team; calm, collected, determined. There was no question about their commitment and in the end no question over skill as they closed the archery event with another bronze medal at the Invictus Games in Orlando.
Tomorrow sees the team compete in the track and field athletics finals, followed by the sitting volleyball Semi-finals, and the Gold and Bronze medal matches. Follow @H4H_SR for live updates and @HelpforHeroes for highlights throughout.