Defence’s wounded, injured and ill athletes will compete against the world’s best in the second iteration of the Invictus Games to be held in the US from 8-12 May.
The Invictus Games is an international adaptive sports event for serving and former serving personnel, which aims to build upon participants’ individual rehabilitation and recovery programs.
The word Invictus means 'unconquered'. This embodies the fighting spirit of the personnel and demonstrates what these tenacious men and women can achieve, post injury.
The games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.
The 2016 games will be held in Orlando, Florida at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the heart of Disney World Resort.
Australia is planning to send a team of up to 40 athletes, including three Navy, 14 Army, three Air Force members and 20 veterans, supported by the Returned and Services League.
The Invictus Games are an initiative by His Royal Highness Prince Harry who on a trip to the Warrior Games in the United States in 2013 saw how the power of sport could help physically, psychologically and socially.
On the back of this, and at his insistence, London hosted the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014.
Prince Harry said he was delighted that the United States had taken up the challenge to host the next games.
“I have no doubt the United States will set the bar even higher than London did and put on a great show,” he said.
Contingent Commander Colonel Phil Langworthy said it was important for the Australian Defence Force to be represented at these games.
“It’s probably the ultimate opportunity for our athletes to experience and participate in adaptive sport; second only to the Paralympics,” he said.
“It’s well accepted now that adaptive sport can play a key role in a service person’s recovery and return of a higher degree of wellbeing.
“The Games are a fantastic setting where our athletes can mix with both coalition and non-coalition countries with whom we’ve served, when many of the injuries initially happened.
“That sense of mateship and camaraderie you get from competing at an international level is pretty special.”
Prince Harry said the games had shone a spotlight on the unconquerable character of current and former servicemen and women, and their families, and their 'Invictus' spirit.
“These games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in,” he said.
“They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together, not wanting to come second, but not wanting the other guys to either.
“These games have shown the very best of the human spirit.”
Australia’s participation in the Invictus Games is part of a broader adaptive sports program that involves Australian Defence Force and veterans competing in events such as the Canadian Allied winter sports camp and the United States Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force trials.
The Australian Defence Force and the Returned and Services League’s cooperative approach is providing a firm foundation for a potential Australian bid to host the 2018 Invictus Games.