Steely gazes focused on gold medals. Muscles strained. Sweat covered the mats. The 2018 Invictus Games had begun. The United States sent 72 of its most dedicated and disciplined warriors to the 2018 Invictus Games in late October. The games, held in Sydney, Australia, bring together ill and wounded service members from around the world for an adaptive sports competition.
“Participation in the 2018 Invictus Games helps to shine a light on the amazing power and positivity of adaptive sports and reconditioning activities for our wounded warriors, who continue to inspire us with their strength, resilience, and personal courage every day,” said Stephanie Barna of the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in a press release.
“These brave service members and veterans demonstrate what it means to be professional, dedicated, and determined,” she continued. “We are proud to honor and recognize their remarkable achievements and support them as they continue their personal journeys of recovery and healing.”
Representatives on Team USA included warriors from all five services: the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The team was led by team captain Master Sgt. Benjamin Seekell, U.S. Air Force, and team co-captain Sgt. 1st Class Brant Ireland, of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
A Week of Fierce Competition
Participants competed in archery, track and field events, indoor rowing, a driving challenge, powerlifting, road cycling, sailing, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, rugby, and tennis.
18 nations sent teams. An additional team made up of international partners, Team Unconquered, competed as well.
So who “won” the Invictus Games, you may ask? It is a testament to the collaborative spirit and support of the Games that the medal results were so hard to find on the Games’ website. For those of you wanting to know, the U.S. team brought home 56 gold medals. But the athletes, spectators, and the world watching came away with so much more than sporting awards.
It was a week of competition and inspiration at this year’s #InvictusGames in #Sydney 🇦🇺. Get one more look at the world’s largest international sporting event for wounded and injured #veterans around the world ➡️https://t.co/WNEhV0g1kP#KnowYourMil #IG2018 #GameOnDownUnder pic.twitter.com/3yRCD05vdb
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) October 27, 2018
Just the Beginning
The Invictus Games have been drawing wounded warriors to the international adaptive sports competition since 2014. The UK’s Prince Harry founded the games to “use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women.” The plan for future games is to continue bringing the world’s best athletes together to compete and show the world they will not be defeated by the challenges life throws at them.
The next Invictus Games will take place in The Hague, The Netherlands in mid-May of 2020.
The United States hosts a smaller but similar competition, the Warrior Games. The Warrior Games is another adaptive sporting competition that brings together athletes from each of the U.S. services, the UK, Australia, and Canada.
More Than a Sporting Event
While participants are fierce competitors, dedicated to bringing home medals for themselves and the country they represent, the games are about so much more than winning. Those who attend come away feeling empowered to take on any challenge.
Teamwork and support is another central focus of the games. “These Games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in,” said founder and patron the Duke of Sussex. “They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together, not wanting to come in second, but not wanting the other guys to either.”
What an incredible crowd who witness our wounded warriors in the final of sitting basketball 🏀. We are all looking forward to celebrating the week of inspiring competition and camaraderie at the Closing Ceremony #IG2018 #GameOnDownUnder pic.twitter.com/dae1caztvs
— InvictusSydney (@InvictusSydney) October 27, 2018
Team Unconquered, which began at the 2017 Games when athletes from Romania, Ukraine, Denmark, and the U.S. formed an international team to compete in sitting volleyball, represents the cohesive goals of the Invictus Games.
“We’re a model of international cooperation,” said 2017 Team Unconquered player Eric Larsen of Denmark. “It’s completely within the spirit of the Invictus Games.” Teammates traded national borders for camaraderie, celebrating the warrior spirit with their fellow competitors.
Though they may be wounded, these athletes are first and foremost warriors. The Invictus Games gives them the opportunity to show the world their talent, drive, and warrior spirit. And I’m not just talking about sports.