Canada Part 1 – Invictus Games

I’m back! Yay! And I’ve had the most fabulous 11 days in Canada. What a truly fabulous place it is. I’ve got so much to write about from my trip that I’m splitting it down into a three part series. Today, part 1 is about the Invictus Games that were on in Toronto.

I didn’t go to the first Invictus Games that were on in London in 2014. But I did manage to get tickets to a couple of events at the Orlando 2016 games. I’d already booked to go to Florida on holiday and when I heard the games would be on AND they were being held at Disney (where I was staying!) there was no excuse not to get tickets. And I was so pleased I did, because it’s a wonderful event. So when it was announced that the 2017 games would be in Toronto, I really wanted to try and do everything I could to get there.

It just so happened that it was my mums 60th birthday around the same time the games were on, and she absolutely loved the games in Orlando, so I had an idea – she’s always wanted to visit Canada (as have I), plus she’d love the games, so why not book a trip?! So I did!

For those of you that don’t know, the Invictus Games were founded by Prince Harry and are for wounded armed forces service men and women and veterans. There are many different adaptive sports and at this games there were 17 countries taking part. And oh my goodness, if you ever get the chance to go to the games then please go. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You will not be disappointed. In fact you will probably come away feeling exceptionally humbled and very proud.

The games are quite unique in a way. They aren’t like any other sports competition I’ve ever been to or participated in. There isn’t a sense of competition between the athletes at all. They may be representing their countries, but they all have two things in common – service to their country, and injuries sustained during that service. There is clearly a mutual understanding between all of the athletes, they have all experienced similar things, and regardless of what country they are from, they are all there to take part in an event which many will say has given them purpose again.

Throughout the games you’ll hear individual stories of a persons journey to the games and what it means to them to compete. Whether their injuries are physical or mental, they will say that competing in the games has given them something to focus on again, something to work towards, and it means they can represent their country once again with pride. And that actually strikes a bit of a chord with you.

I have no military connections at all and so I really have no idea what it’s like to serve in the armed forces. I can imagine there is a huge sense of pride. As a civilian though, I just cannot get my head around what it’s like to be sent to a war zone on the orders of your countries politicians. Those in the armed forces never ask to be sent somewhere that puts them in danger, they entered the armed forces to serve their country and protect us from those who wish to do us harm. The fact that many come back injured is absolutely heartbreaking. More so for those who don’t make it back at all.

When you hear the individual stories of how a person was affected by their experiences, or what injuries they’ve sustained, and then their personal journey to overcome everything, it’s genuinely awe-inspiring. And more than that, when you see what it means to those who get selected to compete it puts a lump in your throat and just makes you feel so damn proud of them.

I only went to two events this year – the sitting volleyball finals and swimming finals. The UK got the silver medal in the volleyball (wooo!) and there were several medals, gold silver and bronze, in the swimming as well.

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The swimming I found particularly amazing. There are different categories of competition with the athletes being put into categories based on their physical abilities. There were some athletes there who had lost two or three limbs, yet were still competing in a swimming event. And to see how they have adapted and how they manage to swim is really quite something! And they are swimming in an Olympic sized swimming pool. How can you not be amazed by that?!

But that’s what gives you such a great sense of pride in them – it doesn’t matter that it might take one person a minute or so longer to complete a race than the winner, the things that matters most is that they finished. Despite everything they have been through, they have trained hard for that event, they have finished the race and achieved something that they probably never thought they would be able to do. It’s remarkable.

And the thing that makes these games unique, as I said above, is that there isn’t really a sense of competition between the countries. They are all rooting for each other and cheering each other on, because they all have that mutual understanding. A perfect example was in one of the womens swimming final races. There were two Brits and two Americans. The two British women finished first and second by a very very long way and the two Americans were struggling a little bit. The whole crowd was willing them on and cheering as loud as they could to keep their motivation going. But the two British women actually swam back out to them and them swam back alongside them, encouraging them every stroke of the way to keep going to the end. And they got there. And it was spectacularly special. And that truly sums up these games and what they are all about.

There is a huge amount of respect and gratitude for Prince Harry amongst all of the athletes. He obviously knows what it’s like to serve in the armed forces and has created these games after seeing a similar event called the Warrior Games in the US. His vision for these games has undoubtedly helped many many service men and women in their times of need. And whether you’re a monarchist or not, you cannot fail to appreciate what he has done with these games. He’s used his Royal status in the best way possible and is just utterly fabulous in my opinion!

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So, like I’ve said, if ever you get the opportunity to go to these games, please do. They are proof of what human endeavour in the face of adversity can do.

The next games are in Sydney, Australia in 2018. Sadly I don’t think I’ll get to go to those ones. My budget won’t stretch that far, especially with moving house next year! But I will surely watch them on TV and cheer them on from home. It will be a phenomenal event, just like the others!

Next post from my Canadian adventure – my time in Toronto and Niagara Falls! Plus I’m going to try and catch up on as many blogs as I can over the next few days!

Thanks for reading! Much love x

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