Six athletes from Wiltshire have been selected to compete at this year’s Invictus Games.
The 90-strong team of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans was officially unveiled by Prince Harry yesterday.
They are now training for the Games which will be held in Toronto in September.
The athletes from Wiltshire include Tom Boney, Kelly Ganfield, Joanne Hursey, Corie Mapp, Cornelia Oosthuizen and team vice-captain Steve Arnold.
Former Corporal in the Army Tom Boney, 34, from Tidworth who suffers from a spinal cord injury and mental health difficulties, says the Invictus Games gives him a sense of belonging.
“I competed in 2016 in Orlando in Wheelchair Rugby and can’t wait to experience that atmosphere again. The last games set me on the right path and I want to continue that journey.”
Tom added: “Being part of a team again after being medically discharged from the Army is a big thing for me.”
Former Army corporal Kelly Ganfield was medically discharged in 2005 due to a rare blood disorder which has resulted in visual impairment as well as epilepsy and other health problems.
Kelly, 36, who lives in Trowbridge, said: “Trying out for the Invictus Games has given me a purpose and sense of hope and achievement.
“I had lost my identity and confidence since leaving the Army, but the Invictus Games has ignited desire, drive and a commitment to be somebody again. I now have an identity and feel part of something amazing. Meeting people and sharing experiences and knowing that I am not alone has helped me so much and I now know that anything is possible,” she said. “I now have the desire to make it happen.”
Kelly will be competing in athletics (100m, 200m and discus) and rowing. She needs support using the rowing machines as she cannot see the screen, and requires a guide to run with.
“The support I have received from Help for Heroes has helped me to realise that I have potential,” Kelly said. “Having people to talk to benefits me massively, and I now know I am not alone.”
Joanne Hursey, from Royal Wootoon Bassett says she is looking forward to challenging herself thanks to the newfound motivation the Games is giving her.
Jo has been serving with the Army since 1995. She sustained an injury to her left leg which left her with no anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. Diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, she also suffers with depression, anxiety, osteoarthritis and a hearing impairment.
Jo was part of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014 and returns this year to compete in golf, athletics (shot put and discus), swimming and sitting volleyball.
She says: “Although still serving, I can’t be the soldier I want to be or indeed once was. Invictus has given me an aim, something to look forward to. I need to look forward and sport is the only way I know I can do this and give 100% in everything I do.”
The team will continue to train in various locations across the country as part of Help for Heroes’ extensive Sports Recovery programme and role to train and develop the team.
Corie Mapp, who lives in Swindon, was injured in 2010 by an IED blast in Afghanistan and lost both legs below the knee. He says “Having another opportunity to represent the country once more is a huge boost for my recovery”
After being discharged from the military in 2013 he discovered the power of sport in recovery, Corie has competed at the 2014 and 2016 Invictus Games and the Warrior Games and is now a GB athlete in Para-bobsleigh and Sitting Volleyball. Corie will be competing in sitting volleyball and athletics (100 metres, 200 metres and 4×100 metres relay) at Toronto 2017.
“I hope I can inspire people from all walks of life, whether military or otherwise, and continue to serve my country in the best way possible by being a good sportsman and a role model for others to follow.”
Cornelia Oosthuizen, from Tilshead, is a former Major in the Army will be competing in wheelchair tennis, swimming, cycling and golf at Toronto 2017. She has a functional impairment illness and reduced mobility.
Cornelia represented the Army and Combined Services in several sports during her military career. Having dearly missed competing, she says: “It’s a privilege to be part of the UK Team for this year’s Games. I’ve always been sporty. Being part of the Invictus Games will benefit my mental state immensely. It’s important to realise there’s so much you can still do. Competing gives me the chance to show how you can adapt to playing sport in different ways while meeting some great people.”
“I aspire to participate in wheelchair tennis during the 2020 Paralympic Games. As a member of the British Tennis Foundation’s preliminary development squad, I have a superb opportunity to perhaps realise this dream.”
Steve Arnold, who lives in Tidworth says “I am honoured to be the vice-captain of the UK team”.
Steve served as a Staff Sergeant with 28 Engineer Regiment, and lost both of his legs above the knee when he stepped on an IED when leading a search team in Afghanistan in April 2011.
Only a couple of months later, he had taken up hand cycling through the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery Programme, and was selected by the British Cycling Development Team to race on national and European circuits.
He has now turned his attention to Para-Nordic Skiing but will be using the Invictus Games in Toronto to compete against other elite athletes.
More than 60 per cent of this year’s team are new to the Invictus Games and were spurred on to apply off the back of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014, the success of the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando and the day-to-day sports recovery activity that takes place.
The team will compete in 11 sports: Athletics; Archery; Wheelchair Basketball; Cycling; Powerlifting; Indoor Rowing; Wheelchair Rugby; Swimming, Sitting Volleyball, Wheelchair Tennis and a new sport for 2017, Golf.
Jayne Kavanagh, of Help for Heroes and Chef de Mission for the UK Team, said: “With more hopefuls than ever before applying to be a part of the Invictus Games in Toronto, and with more than 60% of the 2017 UK Team being brand new to the Games, it is evident that the legacy of 2014 and 2016 is strong.
“In the UK team, we have 90 individuals who have displayed high levels of passion, teamwork and commitment to using sport as a tool of recovery both during and beyond the Invictus Games. We are very proud to be working alongside them and wish them the best of luck as they embark on their Invictus Games journeys.”
The Royal British Legion will be supporting the friends and family, including carers, of the UK team as part of its work to recognise the vital and valuable contribution that they make to the recovery of WIS Service personnel and veterans.
The Legion’s director general, Charles Byrne said: “The Legion is proud to be supporting the friends and family of the UK team athletes at the Invictus Games 2017. We know how important the support of friends and family is to the team,
both in their performance and recovery, so their involvement in the games is key. The Legion is co-ordinating travel, accommodation and tickets for family and friends to attend the games in Toronto, to ensure that every athlete can enjoy the support of their loved ones. We will also be providing support to friends and family in the UK in preparation for the games, as well as out in Toronto.”
Jaguar Land Rover is proud to support the UK team and are presenting partners of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017.
Jeremy Hicks, managing director of Jaguar Land Rover UK, said: “When we first partnered with the Invictus Games in 2014, we knew its vision would be a perfect match for the values of Jaguar Land Rover and we are incredibly proud to be continuing our role as presenting partner of the games this year, in addition to sponsoring the UK Team as we did in Orlando.
“The passion and determination shown on the field is truly inspiring and we’re delighted that Jaguar Land Rover employee Pa Njie will be representing us in Toronto this September.
“We wish him and all of the 2017 competitors the best on this exciting journey.”
The Invictus Games Toronto 2017 will take place from 23 – 30 September. To find out more, go to www.invictusgames2017.com