PM meets UK Invictus Games team heading to Sydney
Prime Minister Theresa May and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson met with the team at a sunny Horse Guards Parade.
A team of 72 wounded, injured and sick military personnel will represent the UK in Prince Harry’s Invictus Games in Australia.
The games were created by the prince, a former soldier in the British Army, and are specifically for people who have been injured while serving in the armed forces.
Prime Minister Theresa May and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson met with the team at a sunny Horse Guards Parade, posing for photos and talking to the athletes ahead of the event which will take place in October in Sydney.
“This is huge. It is something I never expected. I got goose bumps from head to toe,” said team captain Mark Perkins, a former Royal Signals Corporal, from Bude, Cornwall, who now lives in Cardiff.
“To be representing those brave men and women is very humbling and an absolute honour.”
Mr Perkins was in Kenya when he was crushed by a vehicle in 2000 in an incident which killed two others. He has had multiple hip operations and had to learn how to walk again. In Sydney, he will compete in the rowing and cycling.
“The message is getting out there, which is fantastic because people are watching the games and thinking ‘I can challenge myself’ and they can get to that start line,” he said.
Mark Ormrod, a former Royal Marine from Plymouth, was on a routine foot patrol in Afghanistan when he stood on and detonated an Improvised Explosive Device. He lost both his legs and one arm in the incident, which took place on Christmas Eve in 2007.
He will be competing in his second Invictus Games, in the swimming and rowing, as well as taking on discus and shot put.
Last year, he won four medals and received an Exceptional Performance Award.
“Last year was my 10-year anniversary of being injured and I thought a nice way to round that off was to do something I hadn’t done before which was sport.
“I jumped in the deep end with the Invictus calendar and was lucky enough to be selected for the team and that’s when the bug bit me and I understood how powerful and addictive sport can be and that’s why I’m back again this year,” said the father-of-three.
Some 451 hopefuls applied to be a part of the UK team, in a range of sports including powerlifting, swimming and wheelchair archery.
Harry and Meghan Markle attended the team trials last month, in one of their last joint appearances before the Royal Wedding.
The first games took place in 2014, in London, and since then, have travelled to Orlando, Toronto and now Sydney.
Over 500 Competitors from 18 nations will take part in 11 adaptive sports in the games, which run from October 20-27.
“We are 72 people whose life didn’t go to plan,” said team vice captain Michelle Turner, a former sergeant from Wigan.
Ms Turner served in the RAF for 20 years, but a virus she contracted resulted in a heart condition which left her in hospital.
“We are just trying to be the best we can be. That might not be like before, but they teach us you can do anything you want.”
Mr Williamson said: “This is an amazing inspiration to everyone. It’s great to see so many service personnel who have given so much to our country having such an amazing opportunity.
“It is about sending a very clear message about the power of sport and the power of competition, and it’s fair to say that our armed forces are the most competitive in the world and this is a living example of that competition and spirit they bring to sport and everything they do in life.”