Powerlifting and indoor rowing athletes competing in this year’s Invictus Games in The Hague honed their skills during a two-day training camp last weekend at Brunel University London’s world-class indoor athletics facilities.
The inspiring international multi-sport event, founded by Prince Harry, helps hundreds of current and ex-forces men and women overcome life-changing mental and physical injuries they sustained whilst serving for their country.
Since the birth of the Invictus Games in 2014, the event has taken place all over the world, generating healthy competition and growing public awareness and respect for injured and sick veterans and military personnel. This year will bring together over 500 competitors from 19 nations to compete in a series of adaptive sports. The success and growth of the games over the years, is a testament to the power of sport to inspire recovery and support rehabilitation.
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(Interview with Rachel Willimson - Captain of Team UK Invictus Games 2020 and Mike Keighley - Armed Forces Covenant Cahmpion at Brunel)
Rehabilitation and Support
One of the athletes at the training camp was Julian Allen, who served in the 2nd Battalion, The Light Infantry, now known as The Rifles. He injured his back whilst serving in Germany and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his tours in Northern Ireland. He has since suffered with his mental health and own self-esteem and struggled to find a way to live with the pain caused by his injuries.
"For 20 years, I didn't know what I was doing, and was constantly self-medicating. I've come off a lot of medication because of the Help for Heroes sports recovery programme and am managing my pain successfully,” said Julian, who has a burning desire to promote the Invictus journey and how it has given him back that winning feeling.
He first considered taking part in the Invictus Games and Help for Heroes sports recovery programme whilst in a hospital in Bristol after a back operation – a decision which turned his life around. He will be competing in assisted powerlifting, wheelchair racing and wheelchair rugby in the 2020 Invictus Games.
Help for Heroes and The Rifles are supplying Julian with his wheelchair rugby chair whilst Shrapnel, a charity for injured veterans, is funding a top-end racing chair, being built in the USA.
(Julian Allen - Invictus Games Team UK Athlete)
“My whole life, and my family’s life, is being changed by the sports recovery programme and by the assistance from the Help for Heroes coaches and key workers, who guide you, and don't give up on you,” said Julian.
“Recovery through sport isn't just for veterans or military personnel. I play alongside disabled civilians in wheelchair rugby in the Bristol Bears wheelchair rugby team. I want to try to inspire other people that may be sat at home with mental health problems as well as physical problems, to join a local club where they can try adaptive sports.
“It doesn't matter if you've got a disability, you can still achieve things. You can still feel good about yourself. You don't have to be rock bottom – and if you are at rock bottom, there are people that will grab hold of you and support you.”
Anne Mason also attended the training weekend at Brunel in her role as a carer. Her son Gaz suffered a serious road accident in 2006 whilst serving, and last year sought support from Help for Heroes and was selected for the Invictus Games Powerlifting squad which has “completely changed his life and given him a real spark”.
“Even if your injury happened a long time ago, you can still access Help for Heroes, who are out there for people like Gaz to help them to reclaim their lives again,” said Anne, who encourages others to get involved in the Invictus programme.
Help for Heroes lead in selecting and training Invictus Games Team UK and work in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion (TRBL). TRBL also help the family and friends of the athletes as they are an essential part of the Invictus journey.
(Invictus Games Team UK Powerlifting Athletes and Powerlifting Coach)
Hopes for The Hauge
The Team UK athletes will train over the next few months at specialised or multi-disciplinary training weekends, like the one at Brunel. At the last games in 2018, held in Sydney, Team UK athletes achieved an impressive ten indoor rowing medals. The hope is that they will have repeat success this year in the Hague in May.
As much as Team UK enjoy the camaraderie and have a drive to achieve their best competitively, they also support each other on their personal goals, and expressed that the Invictus Games is as much about your individual journey and community as it is about healthy competition.
Each athlete has personal ‘in-victories’, which are goals they set themselves for the Invictus Games. This can be from achieving gold to feeling more positive about their progress.
“It doesn't matter what other people are achieving. It's your own personal journey. My aim is to bench as much as I can in Holland – as well as support the rugby squad in achieving a gold,” said Julian.
“But win, lose or draw. It doesn't matter. I've already won a gold because I've been selected to represent my country again.”
Brunel's world-class facilities
Brunel's Indoor Athletics Centre, the location for the Invictus Games 2020 training weekend, is unique among London universities, and is part of Brunel's extensive sporting facilities – enjoyed by several Olympians in 2016.
These facilities are used by athletes on Brunel’s prestigious Sports Scholarship Programme and have enabled the university to help athletes achieve their world-leading potential.
The Invictus team were complementary about Brunel’s facilities, and are pleased to be back on campus for the third year in a row. Clare Holman, an Indoor Rowing Coach supporting the athletes over the weekend, said “It was a great training camp, everyone had a great time and it was amazing to be able to access these facilities”.
(Invictus Games Indoor Rowing Coach with Team UK athletes)
Brunel’s Armed Forces Covenant commitments
Following the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant in 2016, Brunel has significantly expanded its relationships across the Defence community. From supporting serving Reservists with up to 18 paid days a year for military training, to promoting employment opportunities to Veterans through the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Career Transition Partnership portal. Brunel is one of only six universities nationally to have been awarded the prestigious gold Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Award by the MOD in 2019.
Read more about Brunel University London’s Sports Scholarship Programme, enquire about booking our world-class sports facilities, or find out about our Armed Forces Covenant.
The games partners and sponsors include the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, alongside Superdry Sport and Jaguar Land Rover.
For more information about Invictus Games The Hague 2020, please visit: https://invictusgames2020.com/
Meet the Invictus Games Team UK competitors here.
Simone McNichols-Thomas, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 265219 firstname.lastname@example.org