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How Invictus is helping us to battle back from our wounds

David Wiseman, Jaco Van Gass and Luke Wigman talk about the 'restorative power' of sport, and taking part in the Invictus Games

By Abi Jackson

Getting back on track after a life-changing injury can be a long and turbulent process. But David Wiseman, Jaco Van Gass and Luke Wigman - and many others like them involved in the Invictus Games - are proof there really is hope.

Now in its third year, the sporting event was set up by Prince Harry and all the athletes that take part are servicemen and women who've been injured in the line of duty.

Last year's British team captain, David Wiseman was shot in the chest in Helmand province in 2009. Cyclist Jaco was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade which resulted in the loss of his left arm, and tissue and muscle-loss from his left leg, while serving with the Parachute Regiment in 2007.

Marathon runner Luke was also injured in Helmand after stepping on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) - the blast threw him in the air, burning the skin off his left leg.

What does it mean to take part in the Invictus Games (IG)?

David: "I've been involved with IG since the very beginning, initially working on developing the concept in my role with the Royal Foundation, then as a competitor at the inaugural London Games, and then as UK team captain in Orlando last year. It's resulted in a training framework that adds structure and sets out goals, aiding my development towards redefinition post-injury."

Jaco: "It means a great deal having been part of the Invictus Games in both London and Orlando. This year, I'll be commenting on the cycling events rather than racing in them - a great opportunity to share my passion and knowledge of cycling with the audience."

Luke: "As incredible as the Games were, the most important aspect for me was the build-up, the journey as a whole. Competing was the cherry on top. My focus and dedication in the build-up phase had never been so high. I learned a valuable lesson: The more you put into something, the more you take away. This doesn't just apply to physical activity, such as running - this actually transferred to all aspects of life."

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Jaco Van Gass modelling the Jamaco AW 17 range

What role has training played in your life since your injuries?

David: "Sport has been incredibly important at tackling more than one aspect of my health and wellbeing. For me, the swimming pool has become the place where I can find peace, clear my mind and be totally present with just my swimming and the environment as the focus."

Jaco: "If you are physically fit, you will be psychologically fit and strong... and if you're physically in a good place, your mind will follow. Physical activities have helped me be focused and keep my mind occupied and stimulated, preventing bad thoughts and memories from taking over and controlling my emotional state."

Luke: "Running has played a huge role in my life since my injuries. From a young age, I've always had this obsession with exploring remote parts of the world, but thought these dreams were unrealistic. Following my medical discharge from the RAF Regiment, I was determined to make the most of life and do all the things I'd ever wanted to achieve. Exercise genuinely makes you feel good about yourself."

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Games founder, Prince Harry

What advice would you give to others who are struggling to get motivated or are up against a challenge they fear they'll never overcome?

David: "It's easy to get into a downward spiral; being inactive affects your motivation. It can take a great deal of willpower to break this cycle - but I promise, the more active you are, the better you will feel."

Jaco: "Never give up. We are all going to face difficulties from time to time, but it's how we stand up against/from it that counts. When I did my first Everest attempt in 2012, I learned a great deal about acclimatisation. To have the best chance of a successful summit attempt, we had to acclimatise to the altitude first. This is similar to setbacks in our life: We need to learn and recover from it, and the next time we face hardships, we're able to overcome them much more easily."

Luke: "It's important to get stuck into as many experiences as possible in life, and try new things. The more you do, the more confident you become. When I'm struggling to motivate myself to train, I break down the session into small, achievable goals. Sometimes we over-think situations and try to fabricate excuses for why we shouldn't do something. If you can put these feelings aside and focus on why you should do something, that's half the battle."

The menswear retailer Jacamo has teamed up with three Invictus Games athletes to model its Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, available in sizes up to 5XL, in store and online now (jacamo.co.uk). This year's Invictus Games run from this Saturday until September 30 (invictusgames2017.com)

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