With the Invictus Games heading to Sydney in 2018, Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, reflects on this year’s Games and why the adaptive sports format is so beneficial to the wider Defence family.
This year I have had the absolute privilege of working with an exceptional group of people; our Invictus Games team. From the first training camp in January through to the closing ceremony in Toronto a few weeks ago, our team has been truly inspirational.
The 2017 Invictus Games brought together more than 550 athletes from 17 nations. Their stories are unique and the journeys they are on are so important. Their individual and collective courage is there for all to see.
In the space of 10 months, as they underwent preparations for this amazing event, I witnessed a profound change in a number of the Australian team. The increased confidence they now have in themselves and the optimism about their paths forward leaves me in no doubt about the tenacity of the human spirit.
The Invictus Games redefine the meaning of triumph. It’s not about victory; it’s not about the medals; and it is not about backing a champion team. It’s about personal achievement; it’s about getting to the start line.
And, it’s about watching a triple amputee take to the pool, being urged on by thousands of cheering spectators, then emerging with a beaming smile and a real sense of accomplishment.
To say it is inspirational is really an understatement. Adaptive sports generally, and Invictus specifically, provide our wounded, injured and ill with renewed purpose. Participation presents a chance to change direction and the opportunity to help rebuild.
Together with other initiatives like the ADF Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills Program, adaptive sports give our people different recovery paths that can complement and enhance more traditional treatments. We recognise the fundamental importance of these different pathways.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ to recovery because the experiences and individual circumstances of our people are unique.
The reasons why current and former ADF members take part in the Invictus Games are varied, encompassing everything from combat wounds to sickness and mental health injuries.
Crucially, there is no hierarchy of injuries; nobody is more important than any other team member.
At the end of the day, it is the road forward that is more important than the road that has been travelled, as hard and as challenging as that road has been.
In this regard Invictus Games has been a great mechanism to help break down the stigma of mental health.
One of the things that has struck me throughout this year is the courage and support of the incredible families.
People so often forget that families are on the recovery journey as well, and for them it is sometimes harder than it is for the serviceman or woman.
But as they go about their work largely unsung and unheralded, it is impossible to ignore the tremendous effect they have on those they support.
That’s why it was good to see family and friends of our athletes in Toronto in such numbers, and with such a great spirit.
Another unsung group are the coaches, team management and support staff. This is simply no ordinary sporting team.
It has to be about the competitors and the families all the time, and this requires real and sustained commitment and a sensitivity that many simply could not do well.
The team this year has been exceptionally well supported.
Whether you are a competitor, family member, coach, medical practitioner or simply someone who has had the privilege of watching it all come together – you cannot help but be changed by the Invictus experience.
If you or someone you know would benefit from the Invictus experience, remember that regardless of whether you are a current or former serving member, there are opportunities to get involved.
Nominations are now open for athletes and coaches to form the 2018 Australian Invictus Games team, with more information available at http://www.defence.gov.au/Events/InvictusGames/2018.asp.
As they say, game on Down Under.