Team unveiled for the Invictus Games The Hague 2020

Date: Sunday December 22, 2019 at 3:18pm

Three months ago, more than 350 wounded, injured and sick Veterans and Service Personnel took part in the Invictus UK Trials in Sheffield. On Tuesday 29 October, the men and women selected to proudly serve their country again as part of Team UK for The Invictus Games The Hague 2020 were officially unveiled.

The team of 65 competitors and 6 reserves came together for the first time ahead of next year's competition, designed to highlight the importance of sport as part of the recovery journey of those with life changing injuries or illnesses. The 350 hopefuls trialled in nine sports and 89% of the selected team have never competed at The Games before.  The rigorous selection process for Team UK was based on the benefit the Invictus Games will give an individual as part of their recovery, combined with performance and commitment to training.

The Duke of Sussex and Invictus Games Foundation Patron Prince Harry joined the team at the Honourable Artillery Company for their first official team photograph.

The Duke spent time chatting to competitors and finding out more about their personal journeys.

During an informal chat with the competitors the royal, who spent 10 years as an Army officer, said: "This is an opportunity for you guys to be serving your country again."

He explained their influence would have a profound effect on many: "It's a really important point to know as well, never underestimate the impact you guys are having on everybody else.”

At a glance key stats

  • 65-strong team of wounded, injured and sick (WIS) military personnel and veterans have been selected to represent the UK at the 2020 Invictus Games.
  • 89% of Team UK are brand new to the Invictus Games.
  • The team were joined for the first official team photograph by The Duke of Sussex and Invictus Games Foundation Patron, Prince Harry.
  • Invictus UK is delivered by a partnership comprising Help for Heroes, The Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion.
  • BAE Systems is proud to support Team UK for the first time.

Meet some of TEAM UK

Team UK also unveiled its’ first female captain, RAF Veteran Rachel Williamson.

Rachel Williamson – TEAM UK Captain

While playing for a RAF team, Rachel received a rugby injury, which developed into a functional neurological disorder, and she ultimately lost the ability to use her arm completely. She almost gave up on fitness forever.

She said: “This year I aim to build the new me and take the final step to where I want to be. I’ve accepted my injury; learnt I can let my emotions go and not be embarrassed or afraid about asking for help.

“So far, my recovery journey has taken me from rock bottom to laying down a new foundation, this year I aim to build the new me and take the final step to where I want to be. I’ve accepted my injury; learnt I can let my emotions go and not be embarrassed or afraid about asking for help which I couldn’t have done without the help of Team UK this last year. “Now it’s time I raise the bar by trying new sports, being positive and happier with less excuses. The Invictus Games offers an amazing opportunity through sport to regain that sense of pride which can be lost following the onset of mental or physical disabilities. Sport empowers us to refocus our attention on what we can do, rather than what we can’t. To be selected as Team UK Captain is truly an honour and I feel immensely proud to be given this opportunity.”

Rachel will be competing Athletics, Swimming and Indoor Rowing at The Invictus Games The Hague 2020

Rachel will be supported by her two Team UK Vice Captains; RAF Veteran Kelly Leonard and Veteran  Cpl David Morris.

Kelly Leonard – Team UK Vice Captain

Kelly, a former RAF Physical Training Instructor, and now a Community Paediatric Physio for the NHS, had a motorbike accident which almost led to her having her foot amputated.

As a child, competitive sports were a major part of Kelly’s life. But since her accident, the former RAF Physical Training Instructor let her injury define her. She lost focus on sport and her physical and mental recovery suffered. It left Kelly with complete loss of confidence and self- belief. Yet through the Invictus journey, she is surrounded by people who do not judge but understand, talk and offer support. The Welsh 41-year-old living in Shropshire said: “They have empowered me to achieve the best I can be. The UK Trials was a turning point in my life, I am back competing and I want more. I have started to believe in myself and was proud to show my children, who have never seen me without disability, that with self-belief you can accomplish anything. I have dreamt of representing my country at the highest level, something I thought would never be a part of my life again.”

Kelly will be competing in Cycling, Swimming, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby and Indoor Rowing at The Invictus Games The Hague 2020

David Morris – TEAM UK Vice Captain

David, a Corporal in the RAF since 2000, was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder following an incident in 2011 while serving as a survival equipment specialist with the Red Arrows.

He admitted the illness made him scared of his own shadow and reluctant to leave the house.

Selected as one of the Reserves for the Invictus Games in 2018, David went on successfully to represent Team UK in Sydney.  “The power of the Invictus Games is hard to describe to people; it has to be seen to be believed. The benefits have dramatically changed my way of life and how I cope with situations in general.”

Focused and committed to continue his recovery journey, in addition to his application for the Invictus Games Hague 2020, David adds “I have already planned and focused on some major events, to give me something to work towards and keep my outlook positive..” “I’m so lucky to have been given this second chance at life and it’s thanks to the Invictus team, my coaches, Help for Heroes, Royal British Legion and my amazing family and friends. Without them, this would not be possible.”

David will be competing in Athletics, Sitting Volleyball and Swimming at The Invictus Games The Hague 2020

The team will compete in nine sports: Athletics; Archery; Wheelchair Basketball; Cycling; Powerlifting; Indoor Rowing; Wheelchair Rugby; Swimming and Sitting Volleyball. They continue to train from now until May in various locations across the country as part of Help for Heroes’ extensive Sports Recovery programme and role to train and develop the team.

Nathan Huddy

Nathan is a former RAF Regiment Gunner who, whilst serving in Iraq in 2003, was involved in a landmine blast, seriously injuring his left foot and he suffered severe shrapnel wounds. Nathan was on a reconnaissance mission when one of his patrol's Land Rovers hit an anti-tank mine after they mistakenly entered an Iraqi minefield. The problems did not end for Nathan. He suffered depression and anger until his daughter was born in 2013. But within nine months, she had to endure two open heart surgeries and was diagnosed with dwarfism and autism. This led to strains on his marriage and ultimately it broke down. Still his problems did not end and in 2017, he suffered a stroke and his mental health spiralled downwards, unable to shower, feed or tie his shoelaces for himself.

Watching the Invictus Games in 2018, he was inspired to contact Help for Heroes and said it was like “a switch being flicked inside his head.” He added: “Since starting my journey I’ve opened more to my partner and family which has helped massively and I’m feeling less angry and frustrated. From the moment of my first training camp through to the UK Team trials, I was overwhelmed with the team spirit, support and encouragement. It blew me away how everyone was there for each other willing them on to do their best. That camaraderie and friendship was exactly what I loved and missed about being in the forces and Help for Heroes and Team UK has given that back to me. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years and I believe starting this journey ultimately saved my relationship and life.”

David will be competing in Indoor Rowing, Powerlifting and Swimming at The Invictus Games The Hague 2020

Gillian Charlton

When Gillian was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, it was a complete shock. She never had any health issues and was at her peak fitness when the diagnosis came. “I had just been selected for promotion…then life stopped!  Following my treatment, I expected to get back to ‘normal’ immediately.  That was almost a year ago and I have found that the ‘normal’ I craved hasn’t been quite as straightforward to achieve.”

Gillian, 40, stopped all physical training following her diagnosis which has resulted in chronic back pain and referrals back to the hospital for nuclear bone scans to ensure the cancer hasn’t returned. Her medication causes fatigue and joint pain. “I have been plagued with dark thoughts, convincing myself that the cancer will return and I will have to leave my children. Becoming involved in Invictus has demonstrated to me that I don’t need to go back to that ‘normal’ but that I can re write my script. I nearly cancelled; I nearly gave up on my recovery. I cannot explain how thankful I am that I didn’t.  To be part of such a supportive community was invaluable. I feel that I’m now ready to start moving forward thanks to Invictus.”

Her overall goal is to utilise the support of the Invictus community to rebuild her own sense of self identity; cancer took a huge chunk of that.  Already a keen powerlifter, Gillian had always been afraid to dive into a swimming pool but decided to face my fears and give swimming a try at the sports camps.  With the encouragement of her Invictus team-mates, she achieved her first ever dive. “It was incredible.  knowing that I had overcome a 40-year mental block was hugely empowering.  My goal is to fully overcome that fear and dive into a pool and swim a decent length, at the Invictus Games.”

Gillian will be competing in Powerlifting, Swimming and Indoor Rowing at The Invictus Games The Hague 2020

Pete Dunning

Pete was serving with the Royal Marines Armoured Support Company on OP HERRICK 8, supporting 2 Para. On the 25th May 2008 he had just finished his last mission and was returning to Camp Bastion. Just as he was about to cross the Helmand River the armoured vehicle he was travelling in struck an IED.

The driver died instantly and Pete lost both of his legs, fractured his spine and received burns to his arms and legs, among other injuries. After being injured in Afghan, the 33-year-old took up skiing and was on the British disabled ski team. Sadly, after enduring two injuries on his left shoulder Peter had to retire. “Being part of the Invictus games will help me to gain a sense of purpose again.  It will also give me a sense of achievement, knowing that I have performed to a high enough standard to, firstly, be selected for the Invictus Games team, and then to represent my country in something which I love.” Pete also wants to be a positive role model for his children. “I love showing them that just because Daddy has no legs, it doesn’t mean that he can't excel things. This would be the perfect opportunity to show them how I can still achieve what I've set my mind to.”

Pete will be competing in Athletics, Wheelchair Rugby and Indoor Rowing at The Invictus Games The Hague 2020

 

Hannah Lawton, of Help for Heroes and Chef de Mission for Team UK, said: “The 65 men and women selected to represent Team UK will not only gain a personal recovery benefit from taking part in the Games but they will hopefully inspire others suffering with life-changing injuries or illnesses that anything is possible.

Our competitors are proudly serving their country again and showing that they will not let their injury or illness define them. As a team, we are especially proud of the fact that 89% of Team UK have never competed in the Invictus Games before.

We are very proud to be working alongside these 65 athletes and wish them the best of luck as they embark on their Invictus Games journeys.”

Comments

» There aren't any comments for this post yet. Why not be the first to comment?

Leave a Comment

Your Name  
Email Address  
(kept hidden)
Website
Comment  
So that we can check that you are a real person (and not a crafty computer), please answer the simple sum below:  
What is 20 - 5 ? Your Answer