MX23RW : Thursday, November 15 11:04:04

The Invictus Games: A triumph for the human spirit

The Invictus Games - even the name itself encapsulates the strength of the human spirit that this event has become famous for.

The Invictus Games - even the name itself encapsulates the strength of the human spirit that this event has become famous for.

Invictus is a Latin word, meaning 'unconquerable' or 'undefeated'. Both of those terms could accurately describe every single one of the individuals who have competed in the Games in recent years.

So quickly and effectively has this event become established, that it's easy to forget how relatively new it is. The inaugural Invictus Games took place here in the UK, in 2014. Since, it's become a worldwide event - Florida in 2016, Toronto in 2017. The 2018 event runs from October 20 to 27 in Sydney, Australia. In two years' time, it switches back to Europe; the 2020 games are scheduled to be staged in the Netherlands.

It's become a cherished part of the sporting events calendar, though it's unique in its conception and participation. For those of you who may be unaware, the Games are for servicemen and women who have been injured in the line of duty, typically wounded during combat and military conflict.

In the Sydney Games, there are 18 nations competing in 11 different medal sports, as well as taking part in wheelchair tennis and golf. But it's not really about the sport, or particularly about winning medals.

For the participants - brave souls who have experienced life-changing injuries as a result of serving their nation in times of war, it's about the defiance of the human spirit. A raging against the odds, and against the light. They may have been heroes in combat, but they're heroes in everyday life, too - and the Invictus Games provides the perfect opportunity to display their courage and unbreakable will.

Prince Harry, who launched the Games, opened the 2018 event. The prince has been a driving force behind the success of the event, and remains an influential figure in the promotion and staging of it today. Speaking at the opening of the 2017 Games, the Duke of Sussex said: "Invictus is about the families and friends who faced the shock of learning that their loved ones had been injured or fallen ill - and then rallied to support them on their journey of recovery.

Prince Harry was inspired to create the games as he left Afghanistan after his first tour there and witnessed three severely injured British soldiers on his flight back to the UK. "The direction of my life changed with it," he recalled. "That's why we created Invictus. Not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds; but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service in their own lives."

Over the course of the Games, hundreds of emotional and compelling, deeply personal, stories will emerge. One of those stories belongs to John-James Chalmers (more commonly known as JJ), a former Royal Marine Commando who served on operations in Afghanistan.

He was wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device - IED - in a blast that claimed the lives of two of his friends. Extensive surgery and rehabilitation followed, and Chalmers competed in the 2014 Games, winning a gold and bronze for recumbent cycling, as well as a bronze in the 4x100m track event. He also captained the trike cycling team.

For JJ, the Invictus Games has had a hugely positive influence.

"The Invictus Games changed my life," he said. "What excites me most about Sydney and the Games' continued future is the fact that I know people's lives are about to change. And we have the opportunity to showcase that to the world."

Since the 2014 Games, Chalmers has embarked successfully on a broadcasting career. He's worked as a presenter for Channel 4's coverage of the Paralympics, and for the BBC on the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He's also an Ambassador for the Invictus Games, and an inspiring motivational speaker, working with Speakers Corner and talking to schools and businesses about his experiences.

His achievements are testament to his strength of character, and it's fair to say all of this began with his involvement with Invictus.

"There are times that I look back and see how far I've come," he reflected. "That gives me the motivation to look forward toward the next challenge. I just want to continue trying to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be."

Chalmers is not alone. The 2018 Invictus Games features around 500 competitors. That's 500 individual personal journeys, from despair to triumph. Here's to the event that celebrates the very strongest of human spirits, and recognises those who refuse to stop fighting.

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