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Harry meets would-be Games athletes

Wounded servicemen and women competed in front of Prince Harry today to mark the beginning of a selection process for his Paralympic-style championships.

Harry met more than 25 potential competitors who are hoping to take part in the wheelchair rugby, cycling and indoor rowing events at the Invictus Games.

A team of 100 serving and veteran personnel will be selected to form the British Armed Forces team in the Games at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London in September.

The selection process, run by Help For Heroes and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and due to last for four months, began this morning at Tedworth House in Tidworth, Wiltshire.

Harry, who wore jeans and a black fleece emblazoned with the Games logo, said he hoped the challenge would help injured personnel in the recovery process.

"I have seen how powerful sport is as a means of rebuilding confidence as well as aiding with physical rehabilitation," the Prince said.

"These men and women are fighters by nature.

"The intense physical training and competitive spirit that will be forged inside this team as they prepare to represent their country in the Invictus Games will, I hope, go some way to helping the recovery not only of those who hope to be selected here today, but also inspire others along the way."

Help For Heroes and the MoD received around 200 applications from men and women hoping to take part in the Games.

More than 300 participants from 13 nations will compete in the international sporting event, from September 10 to 14 this year.

Following today's selections, further events will take place to find the 100 men and women who will form the British Armed Forces team.

Aspiring competitors will be assessed for their commitment to train on a regular basis and their performance.

Sir Keith Mills, chairman of the Invictus Games, said: "With the selection process starting, the countdown to the Invictus Games has truly begun.

"Not only have we started recruiting our British Armed Forces team but tickets for the Games will go on sale next month.

"Now is the time for the public to really get behind these Games and show their support for those who will be the real stars of the event - the competitors."

The Invictus Games are being organised with the support of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry as well as the MoD.

Competitors will take part in eight sports - athletics, archery, wheelchair basketball, road cycling, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby, swimming and sitting volleyball.

There will also be a driving challenge, organised by Jaguar Land Rover.

Group Captain Vicky Gosling said: "Sport can help an individual to realise their full potential and I hope the Games will encourage even more service personnel to take up physical challenges as part of their recovery."

Games hopeful Jon "Frenchie" Le Galloudec was shot in the spine while on active duty in Iraq.

He is aiming to compete in rowing and swimming events at the Games and defend his two bronze medals from the Warrior Games in the US in 2013.

"Sport has really helped me improve my confidence post injury and the sense of freedom I get from it is second to none," he said.

"My proudest sporting achievements are winning two bronze medals at the Warrior Games in 2013 and it would be an honour to be selected for the Invictus Games."

Royal Marine Don Maclean, who stood on an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan in April 2011, has put his name forward for the wheelchair basketball and cycling events.

"Hopefully I will be selected for the Invictus Games but it is also important that we show other injured servicemen that there is life beyond injury," he said.

"Prince Harry has always been a great supporter of military charities and obviously he likes to keep the spotlight on injured servicemen.

"It's always great to see that he is prepared to take the time to come and visit us and to speak with us. It keeps everybody motivated."


From Belfast Telegraph