four questions about the contest that brings together soldiers with disabilities, created by Prince Harry

The fifth edition of this event, in which France is participating, will take place from April 16 to 22 in The Hague, the Netherlands.

“Help the injured to rebuild”, this is the goal of the Invictus Games. This international sporting competition is reserved for current or former soldiers with disabilities. The fifth edition should have taken place in 2020, but was postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic. So this will take place from April 16 to 22 in The Hague (Holland), and will host 500 athletes from a twenty countries.

What are the Invictus Games?

The Invictus Games or The Invictus Games (in English) are a multi-sport competition reserved for the military (in particular, the army and the national gendarmerie) and defense civilians. This competition, which advocates reconstruction through sport, brings together soldiers injured on duty or in opex (external operation), but also gendarmes injured in the exercise of their duties, or even soldiers who have been affected by the disease. All disabilities are represented, whether physical or mental.

The competition, which takes place every two years in a different country, was created by Prince Harry in 2014 and is modeled after the Paralympic Games. Prince Harry followed the example of the Warrior Games (the “Warrior Games”) in the United States, which are aimed at U.S. soldiers and veterans with disabilities. With the Invictus Games, Prince Harry wanted to replicate the initiative with an international reach. “I am”, the motto of the Invictus Games, is inspired by the last two lines of the poem. Unbeatenof the English poet William Ernest Henley, who sings of his strength in the face of adversity: “I am the owner of my destiny, I am the captain of my soul.”

How are the Invictus Games organized?

The competition covers ten disciplines: athletics, indoor rowing, wheelchair basketball, road cycling, weightlifting (bench press), swimming, wheelchair rugby, archery, sitting volleyball and a driving challenge (test of vehicle maneuvers). Athletes are free to participate in several different disciplines during the same edition. As a novelty this year, the organizers have limited the number of participations of each soldier to two.

In each discipline, they are divided according to handicap categories. As in the Paralympic Games, doctors perform a medical examination on each athlete to define her category.

Preparation course for athletes participating in the Invictus 2022 Games, at the National Defense Sports Center (CNSD) in Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne).  Here, an archer works on his technique accompanied by his coach.
Preparation course for athletes participating in the Invictus 2022 Games, at the National Defense Sports Center (CNSD) in Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne). Here, an archer works on his technique accompanied by his coach. (CHRISTIAN MERCY/CNSD/BCOM)

Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the top three in each competition. Since the creation of the Invictus Games, France has increased its number of medals. With 20 charms in 2014 (including 9 in gold), he got 33 during the last edition in 2018, including 14 in gold.

Which delegation to represent France?

Since the creation of the Invictus Games in 2014, France has always participated in the event. For this fifth edition, the French delegation will have 14 athletes, including a woman. Of these fourteen athletes, 12 of them will participate in the rally for the first time. In France, athletes competing in the Invictus Games may be veterans or on long-term sick leave, still active in the military, or even working outside the institution today.

The French delegation for the Invictus Games 2022 will be made up of 14 athletes, including one woman.  For 12 of them, this is their first participation in this competition.
The French delegation for the Invictus Games 2022 will be made up of 14 athletes, including one woman. For 12 of them, this is their first participation in this competition. (STEPHANE PELLIZZARO/CNSD/BCOM)

Athletes have been able to prepare for this deadline at the National Defense Sports Center (CNSD) in Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne), which has all the necessary facilities: athletics tracks, gym, weight room, swimming pool or even a climbing wall. If the army has a pool of physical trainers, it does not hesitate to turn to the French sports federations when it lacks skills in certain disciplines. In The Hague, during the opening ceremony, the French delegation will be led by Corporal Major Frederick*chosen as flag bearer.

What contribution for athletes?

“The Invictus Games are just a step towards something more, another competition within the armed forces (Military World Championship or Military World Games) or towards the Paralympic Games, or towards another personal goal,” explains Captain Erwan*, head of the CNSD military and sports injury department in Fontainebleau for three years.

The Invictus Games are therefore a first step in the process of physical or mental reconstruction through sport. Following this competition, France established from the beginning a support system for reconstruction through sport, from the hospital to the competition. “In France, we are the leaders in this type of support within the countries of the International Council for Military Sport (CISM)”, the captain points out. Although a pioneer in sport for the disabled, the UK is not a member of the CISM and its support are very often oriented towards paralympics

“Our support is more global and aims above all to be a vector of social reintegration through sport. Our purpose is not high-level competition but fulfillment through physical activity”.Captain Erwan, Head of the CNSD Sports and Military Injuries Department in Fontainebleauon franceinfo: sport

“The device stays with them as long as they want, whether they’re still in the military or not. If at any point they no longer feel the need, our mission is accomplished.” continues the head of the department of military and sports injuries.

“Participating in the Invictus Games allows them to represent France again after an accident or illness has put a stop to their career. adds Captain Erwan. And this is a source of pride for them. So, the message that is delivered through the Invictus Games is: ‘look we can, you who are in the reconstruction phase too’”. A strong message addressed to all soldiers “touched on his flesh. For about 70% of the injured who entered the system suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome”, the captain continues. By last, “We are the pencil that allows them to write their story.”

*Last names have been removed.

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