Invictus Games Orlando 2016 Closing Ceremony to cap inspirational week
The second Invictus Games, presented by Jaguar Land Rover, are closing today after an amazing week that demonstrated the power of the human spirit and importance of sport to wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women on their recovery journeys.
Almost 500 competitors from 14 nations inspired the world with their Invictus spirit. Invictus means “unconquered” and thousands of fans saw in person – and millions more on television -men and women who refuse to be defined by their injuries.
Sir Keith Mills, Chairman of the Invictus Games Foundation said: “Orlando – you are amazing – what a fantastic Invictus Games it has been. We have been inspired and moved by our wounded injured and sick Servicemen and women and we have seen extraordinary sport in these amazing venues. It has been a truly magical games. I am thrilled that the Invictus Games legacy will continue in 2017 with the Invictus Games in Toronto.”
Arriving in Orlando with a fitting ribbon cutting ceremony at the competitors village hosted at the Shades of Green Resort, the only Armed Forces Recreation Center in the continental United States, each day thereafter for the week featured different sports, celebrity attendees, and medalists, but one thing was consistent – the inspirational Invictus spirit.
Invictus Games Orlando 2016 featured a lot of firsts including a new sport, wheelchair tennis; a new participating country, Jordan; more competitors and a committed focus and dialogue on helping our wounded warriors rehabilitate. But the number of medals, nations, and days of competition cannot measure the impact of the Games for competitors and their families.
“I would like to thank all the competitors, their friends and families, the spectators, the volunteers and all the hard working members of our organizing team who helped shine a light on the sacrifices of those who defend our freedom,” said Ken Fisher, Chairman of the 2016 Invictus Games Organizing Committee.
Cheering crowds did not break applause between a first place and last place finish; coaches shared stories of teamwork and dedication; competitors helped each other cross the finish line; family members traveled the world to continue to support their loved ones; spectators shared stories about how they were inspired by the Games and advocates came together for an open and candid discussion about the impact of invisible wounds.
Families of Invictus Games 2016 competitors were offered accommodation at the Coronado Spring Resort and treated to unique experiences, allowing them to develop relationships with other families in similar situations.
“My experience [at the Games] has been incredible. It’s been great to come out here and support [my boyfriend]. We are meeting other teams from all around the world. It’s awesome. It is so good for [the competitors] as well,” said Sara Trott, who has supported her boyfriend UK competitor Mike Goody at both the Invictus Games London 2014 and now at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016.
Coach Gumbert who supported the U.S. team’s gold medal win in Rugby Wheelchair reflected on his experience at the Games and said, “I’m humbled, honored and overwhelmed. In my years in sports, both as an athlete and as a coach, I’ve never seen such an impact on individuals as I have this past week.”
The competitors character, grit and determination, embodied the I AM emblem in the Invictus Games Flag that traveled the country before arriving in Orlando. For example, U.S. competitor Elizabeth Marks who gave her medal back to Prince Harry to give to the Papworth Hospital team in England as a gesture of gratitude for saving her life during the 2014 Games in London. The Aussie sportsman Mark Urquhart, who won three gold medals in track, led the grueling 1500m until the last 20m where he, in a fantastic display of sportsmanship, reached back and pushed his American competitor into the lead, giving him the gold medal. Ulfat Al-Zwiri, the only female competitor from Jordan who received a standing ovation from fellow competitors and the crowd as she valiantly crossed the finish line several meters behind the rest of the field in the women’s 100 meters dash. Gold medalist Marion Blot from France who embraced Sarah Rudder after taking a tumble in the 200 meter steps away from the finishing line.
The Invictus Games Symposium on Invisible Wounds was hosted by President George W. Bush. The Invictus Games Symposium convened warriors, experts and community partners to address the scale and scope of invisible wounds (Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries) facing warriors. With representatives from all fourteen nations participating, discussion included barriers to care, including both stigmas and stereotypes associated with these injuries.
The Invictus Games Orlando 2016 will come to a close this evening with a Closing Ceremony that will feature musical performances by best-selling country vocal group of the past decade Rascal Flatts, American sensation and former “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips, Florida native and Grammy-nominated hip-hop superstar Flo Rida, “The Voice” Season 9 winner Jordan Smith and the first nationally-recognized wounded warrior band, Vetted.
Over the next few days the excitement from the epic match may die down, but the support system and relationships built at the Games will continue to 2017, and last forever.
Michael Burns, CEO of Invictus Games Toronto 2017, said, “Congratulations to the organizing committee for the Invictus Games Orlando 2016. They created an outstanding environment where wounded, ill and injured military competitors could focus on the task at hand, knowing their loved ones were in the capable hands of the staff and crew at Walt Disney World. These Games succeeded in showcasing the power of adaptive sport in the healing and recovery of our wounded warriors and their families. We look forward to building on their legacy when Toronto hosts the third Invictus Games in 2017.”