This year’s Invictus Games, founded in 2014 to provide a forum for wounded combat vets from all over the world to compete athletically, took place in Dusseldorf, Germany. For the first time ever, Israel was invited to send a delegation and the team captured 14 medals, including three golds in table tennis.
The Israeli athletes said they very much enjoyed meeting fellow combat veterans from around the world as well as Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex who founded the games after his own deployment and service in the British Army in Afghanistan.
The games take place every year or two and are open to injured combat soldiers from around the world. The competition’s mission is to promote sports as a vital means of physical and mental rehabilitation and soldiers with all types of “injuries” are eligible including PTSD. A key element of the games is that athletes only compete against others with similar levels of disability to ensure that the competition is fair and equitable.
The inaugural Israeli delegation was sponsored by the Defense Ministry and the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO). The team consisted of 20 athletes, aged 24-68, as well as four coaches and ZDVO staff. The athletes, including three women, competed in swimming, cycling, archery, table tennis, and indoor rowing. Some competed in more than one sport.
In addition to the Silver and Gold medals won in table tennis (actually a new sport introduced in these games), Israeli athletes took home silver and bronze medals in swimming, and cycling as well. Even those athletes who didn’t win a medal felt extremely accomplished with some of them setting personal best records.
On some level, the most important success of the games was how the Israeli delegation was welcomed and accepted. Many of them expressed not only pride in representing Israel, but excitement to meet and compete against athletes from all over. People everywhere were happy to reach out and talk to the Israeli athletes and they were welcomed with open arms by the game’s hosts and other teams, with everyone cheering for them both at the opening and closing ceremonies.
The next Invictus Games are scheduled for February 2025 in Vancouver, Canada and will include its first ever adaptive winter sports competitions including alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, skeleton, and wheelchair curling in addition to the traditional sports like indoor rowing, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby.
Whatever the sport, Team Israel has already committed to the 2025 games and is looking forward to joining, participating and winning again!
Source: Times of Israel