This weekend, we brought the 62-strong team of wounded, injured and sick personnel and veterans, due to compete at the Invictus Games The Hague, back together for the first time in almost two years.
The team gathered for a multi-sport training camp at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) Stanford Hall in Nottinghamshire, as they kick off their in-person training programme for the twice-postponed Games which will now take place in April 2022.
In partnership with the MOD and the Royal British Legion, we are proud to deliver Team UK for the Invictus Games, using our specialist Sports Recovery capability and support services to ensure each veteran, and their family, can achieve their personal goals.
Hannah Lawton, Help for Heroes Sports Recovery Manager and Chef de Mission for Team UK said:
“The journey to an Invictus Games is always massive for every single competitor as they learn to adapt to life-changing injuries and illnesses, and manage daily struggles, before even getting to the point of applying to compete. None of us imagined that Team UK would have the added challenge of a pandemic and, by the time they get to The Hague in 2022, a delay of two years.
“These competitors are well-versed in taking on challenges though and I’m so proud of the commitment they’ve shown to the team, whether that’s in keeping up with training virtually, supporting their teammates or recognizing when they need to step back and take a break.
“It’s been great to see the team, 90% of who have never competed in the Invictus Games before, back training together this weekend after so long and we’re looking forward to continuing to support them on this journey.”
Over the past two years, the competitors rose to the challenge of keeping their fitness and their spirits up during multiple lockdowns, supported by family and friends, by altering their routines to take on virtual training online, as well as getting outdoors where restrictions allowed.
For 30-year-old former Guardsman Craig Godsall, from Newport, training for the Invictus Games has opened his eyes to the benefit of support from his teammates and coaches. Since his injury, causing disintegrated discs in his lumbar spine, he lost the confidence to run and became so depressed that he made two attempts on his life.
Craig said: “I lost that feeling of closeness and help from my Army friends. But since applying for Invictus, I’ve been given a new purpose and I feel like I’m finally getting my pride back as well as my sense of family, it’s amazing.
“During Covid I really struggled mentally and physically as I felt like I'd lost my only place I could go to reset when I wasn't in a great mental state. With good support I was able to keep on track with check-ins from the Invictus UK athletic team and counselling with Help for Heroes. I finally started to buy kit, went out running and joined in online courses that were being held for Team UK. When things opened up with Covid, I was able to participate in the Welsh championships for athletics.”
Competitors spent two full days over the 6th and 7th of November training in the nine key sports that will make up the Invictus Games The Hague; athletics, archery, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby in the DMRC’s exceptional sporting and rehabilitation facilities.
Team UK Captain Rachel Williamson, a former Corporal and Medic in the RAF, was medically discharged from service in 2018 after suffering what she initially believed to be a minor injury which resulted in her losing the use of her right arm. The loss of her career took its toll on her mentally while she had to learn how to adapt to her injury. Rachel, who now works at DMRC Stanford Hall as Force Generation Admin Officer for Spinal and Upper Quadrant Services in Outpatients, said: “To finally be back together face-to-face as Team UK has been emotional and is such an important part of our Invictus Games journey. DMRC Stanford Hall is also where I work, so it has been amazing to train at this high-class adaptive facility.
“Facing a pandemic and postponement of the Invictus Games twice, whilst overcoming our own daily struggles, just shows how resilient and strong Team UK truly are. It’s a team I’m honoured to Captain all the way to The Hague next April.”
We are grateful to BAE Systems for being the official presenting partner of Team UK.
Follow us on social media for the latest updates on the team’s progress to the Invictus Games The Hague.