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The fifth edition of Invictus games takes place from 16 to 22 April in The Hague. This international sports competition, sponsored by Prince Harry, brings together more than 500 wounded or disabled soldiers and veterans in 12 disciplines.
After London in 2014, Orlando in 2016, Toronto in 2017 and Sydney in 2018, Invictus games are back. This year, about twenty athletes will wear the colors of France among the 19 countries represented. This meeting was scheduled for 2020 and was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Modeled after the Paralympic Games
The first edition was launched in the UK in 2014 by Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, when he returned from Afghanistan after serving in the ranks of the British Army. Prince Harry was mainly inspired by Warrior Gamesa competition held annually in California by the United States military for its wounded soldiers.
One can say that the Invictus games are related to the Paralympic Games, which ignited the United Kingdom with London 2012† Of the 4,400 athletes who attended, Tokyo in 2021a dozen of them were veterans of Afghanistan, wounded during operation.
From volleyball to athletics, via archery, golf, wheelchair rugby or even swimming, everyone comes to measure themselves, continue to grow and make their handicap a strength. †
Invictus (“unconquered” in Latin) is a short poem written in 1875 by the English poet William Ernest Henley who suffered from tuberculosis and had to have his leg amputated. This poem was also one of Nelson Mandela’s favorites. The poem ends with two iconic lines: I am the master of my destiny, I am the captain of my soul † I am the master of my destiny, I am the captain of my soul †
“I only had the idea of refuge in my head”
Victim of a stroke while exercising in 2001, slipped into a coma, Sébastien was an accomplished runner at the time of the tragedy, achieving more than respectable times before ending up in a wheelchair. He had to relearn how to walk for two years before considering returning to athletics to rebuild himself physically and most importantly psychologically. In The Hague he participates in two athletics competitions: the 1500m and the 400m. From his stroke he kept hemiplegic consequences on the left.
† A few months after my stroke, all I had the idea was to appeal. It saved me. In the beginning I ran slow, and because I’m a very proud person, a quality, I had to make fast progress. I went back to the club, I trained a lot and I started to get podiums at the French championships in disabled athletics. “, Sébastien confides to RFI.
One day, a director of the National Center for Defense Sports (CNDS) in Fontainebleau offered him to participate in the Invictus Games in Orlando in 2016.” Sport gave me a strong morale and great willpower. Thanks to sport I almost became resilient again. Nowadays people see me more as an able-bodied person than as a disabled person. Sports made me feel appreciated he says. Able to run the 10 km in 38 minutes (33 minutes before his stroke) with his handicap, he even took part in the semi-finals of the French Cross Championships with the able-bodied.
The forgotten history of conflicts around the planet
That Invictus games also tell the story of conflicts around the planet. Mostly distant wars, with wounded soldiers, amputated, which we don’t see. In Afghanistan, 89 French soldiers were killed and about 700 were wounded. In less than a decade, 58 French soldiers lost their lives in the Sahel as part of the Serval dan Barkhane operations†
† In Orlando I was impressed to see Americans and Iraqis rubbing in the same hotelremembers Sebastien. Knowing what happened between these two nations, it was touching to see them looking at each other without malice, just sporting Prince Harry indicated in his closing speech in 2014 that the Invictus games were also a competition” where two contestants chose to cross the line hand in hand, where the winners, who have just arrived, turn to applaud and cheer on those left behind †