Invictus Games: Meet the 'bloody but unbowed' competitors

Prince Harry meeting Invictus Games captains Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prince Harry, here with the international team captains, has been behind the games

The Invictus Games competitors come from all walks of life but are bound by their armed forces experience - and their determination not to let illness or injury defeat them.

As in the poem the games are named after, these men and women are "bloody but unbowed".

The games, championed by Prince Harry, have given them an additional focus to their lives, many say.

Some hope they will act as a stepping stone - perhaps taking them as far as Rio 2016.

Here are some of their stories:

Darren Kamara

Image copyright Help For Heroes

Darren Kamara, from Cambridge, competed in last summer's US Warrior Games in Colorado, which provided the inspiration for the Invictus Games.

The former Lance Corporal in the RAF Regiment, who was medically discharged after suffering an injury to his neck while serving in Afghanistan, spoke of the mental - as well as physical - benefits he discovered.

The 36-year-old archer said: "At the time, I didn't know if I was in or out of the forces and was suffering from a bit of depression as well because I wasn't at work and didn't have my friends around me.

"I scored the top British score - and that's led to me doing the Invictus Games. When I did lose my job, my lifestyle and everything changed, so I couldn't have been given a bigger injection of confidence."

Mr Kamara, who is engaged to former Olympic swimmer Lisa Chapman, is now working towards setting up his own photography business - but he hasn't ruled out competing further.

"They're looking for male archers for the GB squad for the Rio Games," he said. "My plan is to work towards that."

Derek Derenalagi

Image copyright PA

Derek Derenalagi, a Lance Corporal with Second Battalion The Mercian Regiment, was initially pronounced dead when his vehicle hit an IED in Afghanistan in 2007, but medics found a pulse while a body bag was being prepared.

The father-of-two from Hertfordshire, who will be competing in the 100m, 200m, shot put and discus, watched the Beijing Paralympics while undergoing rehabilitation and took up athletics - initially teaching himself through YouTube videos. He went on to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games.

He said of the Invictus Games: "To be part of the British armed forces team and to compete in athletics again, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm a bit nervous as well but I'm really, really looking forward to the games.

"Seeing some of the guys I was in hospital with when I got injured and to see them here competing in different kinds of events, it's so encouraging to see."

He added that while there was still "room for improvement", the London Paralympics - and now Invictus Games - had hugely changed people's awareness of those with disabilities.

Carolyne Dufley

Image copyright PA

Corporal Carolyne Dufley, a 32-year-old member of the Royal Logistic Corps, survived tours of Iraq and Afghanistan but suffered a spinal injury during a Judo competition in 2011.

It left her with pain, loss of movement and muscle spasms - but she says taking part in powerlifting and wheelchair rugby gives her the opportunity to show how far she has come.

She said: "It's time to give back to all the people who have helped us, for their dedication, their time, their effort - for families to be able to see the outcome of the rehabilitation, because they're there from the moment you've been injured."

The mother-of-two from Didcot, Oxfordshire, said the Invictus Games could change perceptions of those who had been injured.

"We've got a chance to prove to people that it doesn't matter what you look like, if you're missing a limb, two limbs, three limbs and half your face, it doesn't matter," she said.

Josh Boggi

Cyclist Josh Boggi, 28, lost both legs in an IED explosion on New Year's Eve 2010 in Afghanistan and later had his right arm amputated as a result of the injuries he sustained.

He says of the Invictus Games: "I see it as a stepping stone, or rung on the ladder, to where I want to be in the future."

At the top of that ladder is the Paralympic Games, and Mr Boggi hopes he can turn handcycling into his career.

He says his son Jenson is his inspiration, adding: "Everything I do is trying to better myself and improve my son's life in the future."

One of the things he is most looking forward to is competing against servicemen and women from other countries.

"Winding up the Americans will be fun," he joked.

Maurillia Simpson

Trinidad-born Maurillia Simpson moved to the UK to pursue her dream of serving in the British Army but was injured in a road accident in Germany in 2010 while preparing for a tour to Afghanistan and was later medically discharged.

The former Lance Corporal for the Royal Logistic Corps said she felt she had "nothing else to live for" at the time but has now been chosen to represent the British Armed Forces team in seated shot put, javelin and discus.

While she says she still misses being in the Army, she now has opportunities she never thought possible through the world of sport.

"You make every day you live after your injury worthwhile and make it count," she said. "The Invictus Games has brought life, hope and identity for all wounded, injured and sick soldiers again."

The Invictus Games in numbers

  • More than 400 competitors
  • A 130-strong British team
  • A total of 13 countries represented - alongside the UK team will be competitors from the US, Denmark, Estonia, France, Italy, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Afghanistan, Georgia, New Zealand and Germany
  • Four days of competition
  • Competitions are taking place in nine adaptive sports: athletics, swimming, powerlifting, indoor rowing, sitting volleyball, road cycling, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and archery
  • Five venues, including those used during the 2012 London Olympic Games
  • An audience of 5,000 is expected for Wednesday's opening ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where Coldplay's Chris Martin will perform the official anthem
  • ..... and all only six months since Prince Harry launched the games.

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