US Team prepares for inaugural Invictus Games
By Senior Airman Zachary Vucic, Defense Media Activity, Air Force News Service
/ Published September 09, 2014
LONDON (AFNS) -- Wounded warriors from the U.S. and 13 other nations came together here Sept. 8 to participate in their first team training for the inaugural Invictus Games.
The games will take place Sept. 10-14 at the site of the 2012 summer Olympics and will feature athletes competing in various Paralympic-style events, including swimming, track and field, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby, among others.
“I’m really impressed with what the organizing committee has done here,” said Lucais Mackay, a track and field coach who specialized in the throwing events. “I hope this becomes an annual event.”
Mackay said the games are a really about recovery for the wounded warriors, whether it be mental or physical. He said his goal is to come out and make the experience a positive one for the athletes, and that despite the long days of training and competing ahead, combined with the stress of international travel, he hasn’t heard one complaint.
“I want to get as much as possible from every aspect of (the experience),” said retired Air Force Capt. Sarah Evans, who will compete in cycling, swimming, shot put and discus. “This is my opportunity to prove how far I’ve come. I pride myself on my independence and being strong, and this is my chance to showcase it.”
Evans said while she expects the best from herself, she is most excited for her teammates.
“I’ve seen how hard (my teammates) have trained, and I think there’s potential there,” she said. “I cannot wait to see them succeed and have all that hard work and training pay off.”
While the annual Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, focuses on interservice competition between the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy, the Invictus Games offer a unique opportunity to compete as a team and as a nation against other countries.
“The fact that we’re all here as one unit … we’re all here for one reason,” said retired Navy Seaman Brett Parks. “We all share one common thing and that is that we’ve made a choice to get up in the morning and better ourselves.”
The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered.’ The games were created to embody the fighting spirit of wounded, injured and sick warriors, and recognize the road to recovery they are on through sporting achievement.
“This is a trail of no excuses,” said retired Army Staff Sgt. Delvin Naston. “A lot of people have excuses for why they don’t do things. Hopefully we can be an example of why they should.”
For Naston, who will compete in volleyball, wheelchair basketball, shot put and discus, the games offer an opportunity for camaraderie, in addition to the actual competition. He said he would like the idea of adaptive sports competitions like Invictus to extend well beyond military service members and reach everyone.
“I think all of us, because of this, we all have a better quality of life,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a win-win for all of us because we get to compete, we get the psychical activity and we get to hang out with friends.”
The opening ceremony will kick the games off Sept. 10, and the athletes will spend their days up to that point preparing themselves physically and mentally.
“It’s 14 allied nations coming together and competing,” Parks said. “We were allied on the battlefield, (and) even though we’re competing against each other, when it’s all said and done, we’re coming together. It’s not about the medals, it’s about what we’re accomplishing together as a whole.”