During the week of September 23rd to 30th 2017, Toronto hosted the 3rd annual INVICTUS GAMES; a multi-adaptive-sport game for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women. The Invictus Games is the brainchild of Prince Harry, who on a trip to the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013, saw how the power of sport could help those veterans with physical, psychological, and social afflictions. Under the direction of the Prince, a veteran of the British Army himself, the Inaugural Invictus Games in London, were held shortly thereafter in 2014. Invictus Games competitors are the servicemen and women who have come face-to-face with the reality of making a sacrifice for their country. They are the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and husbands and wives who have put their lives on the line and have suffered life-changing injuries, both visible and invisible.
“Time and time again, competitors from around the world tell me that sport has saved them; that the Invictus Games have given them a new lease on life; and that to represent their country again with fellow comrades is something they could only have dreamt of while lying in hospital.” – Prince Harry
If we dig deep into our family history, most of us have some or multiple, members who served or are currently serving in the military. If your family is anything like mine, there’s always that one story, possibly more, that gets recollected and stands the test time. In my family, both maternal and paternal grandfathers, and one of my maternal great-grandfathers, all whom I have been blessed to know, served in the Italian military. Now, both my brothers are servicemen in their own right: my older one is a police officer and my younger one is a corrections officer and also a reservist in the Canadian Army. So when it was announced that the Games were looking for medical volunteers, I did not hesitate. At our volunteer orientation, the group was asked what that one word was that best described our reason for volunteering. Mine was, naturally, SERVICE. To expand on that a bit, I felt it was my honor and duty to service those men, women, friends, and family who are responsible for the freedoms we enjoy today, in the only manner that I know how: through physiotherapy. Most of us will never know the horrors of combat. So how could I not be there to help these competitors who continue to fight a daily battle that challenges perceptions of physical disability and mental illness? How could I not be there to push them along as they used their organized adaptive-sport(s) to rehabilitate and reintegrate into a life beyond disability? And, how could I not be there to witness when they reclaimed their future?
“Invictus” is the Latin word for “unconquered” and the motto of the Games “I AM INVICTUS” embodies a fighting spirit of being broken down, but not overcome; being challenged, but never defeated; having the willpower to persevere and conquer new heights. Not once did I hear any mention of medal standings during my week at the Games, and to this day, have not even checked, nor do I know if they even exist. That is because the Invictus Games are about much more than sport; they are about capturing hearts, challenging minds, and changing lives. I know they did mine.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity (while technically on shift for host medical) to capture what the spirit of the Invictus Games is all about. Here we have a U.S. track athlete being encouraged to the finish line by his “competition”, who have already lapped him once and completed the race.***video credit to Dr. G.