Article written by: AFLUA Life Member, Graeme Patterson OAM
During the period 20-27 October 2018, Eileen and I attended the Invictus Games in Sydney. The occasion, the fourth time the Invictus Games, had been held since their inception in London in 2014, was held over eight days, involving 500 competitors from 18 nations participating in 13 sports. The Games were initiated by HRH The Duke of Sussex and he has been the driving force behind their development and success from the outset. The participants are ex-service men and women who have a range of physical and psychological disabilities. The term “Invictus” means “unconquered” and the word was chosen because it embodies the fighting spirit of wounded, injured and ill service personnel and personifies what these tenacious men and women can achieve.
The incredible power of the Invictus Games is that they are strong and vibrant enough to bring people of different experiences and nationalities together. It gives people a renewed sense of identity and purpose – not only for the competitors, but also for the spectators, who cannot help being affected and changed for the better by the experience. The Games impact on everyone in attendance and the mutual respect and support shown is all encompassing. Successful athletes in events such as swimming and athletics provide support for the other participants still competing in them and the spectators encourage and cheer them until they finish. In a word, the Games were INSPIRATIONAL and our tear ducts were working overtime as we witnessed so many examples of commitment and courage.
Examples of these qualities and characteristics are too numerous to list in full, but some images will last forever, such as the Dutch wheel chair tennis player who stopped playing to comfort a English counterpart who suffered PTSD after a helicopter flew over the court; two Australian wheel chair rugby players who gave the ball to a severely disabled New Zealand opponent so that he could score his only try in the match; and the support shown by competitors and spectators for the athlete who suffered a very bad fall whilst competing in the long jump.
The messages highlighted by the Games reinforce the positives in life – the healing power of sport, the unconquered human spirit, we are stronger together and I am strong, resilient, brave and determined. Equally, the closing two lines of the Invictus poem have universal application to us all – “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. In his closing ceremony speech, Prince Harry emphasised the importance of mental health and the application of positive aspects of the example provided by these brave men and women to us all in our civilian lives. Essentially, these Games and the powerful messages they emphasised will live in our memories for a very long time and will provide a sense of direction for everyone in the future.