Team Canada preps for Prince Harry's Invictus Games
Veterans and Soldiers from Team Canada attend a training camp in Toronto on March 23 in preparation for the Invictus games, a multi-sport competition for ill, injured and wounded soldiers from around the world founded by Prince Harry.
From the battlefield to the sports field, along the road to recovery for wounded soldiers
The 30 Team Canada athletes training recently in Toronto are still a month from competition and yet they have all already managed to overcome incredible odds.
Each is a veteran or current member of the Canadian Armed Forces who was wounded while serving.
They are set to compete in May against other wounded soldiers from around the world in the second Invictus Games, a multi-sport competition founded by Prince Harry three years ago.
Capt.Simon Mailloux, an officer with the Royal 22 Regiment is one of them. The 32 year-old officer lost his left leg at the knee after stepping on an improvised explosive device during a 2007 mission in Afghanistan.
He turned to adaptive sports as part of his rehabilitation. Now he competes in several track and field events.
"I got injured in Afghanistan and I redeployed to Afghanistan two years later. Sports helped me out. Now whatever (training) I did over those years, I get to test on the track and field at Invictus," he said.
Mailloux says the Invictus games are all the more meaningful because they were founded by Prince Harry, himself an Afghan vet.
"For us he's the best patron," he said. "He's also a brother in arms. He's been there with us. He understands what we've been through."
Harry launched the games in 2013 after seeing a similar event for wounded US vets. He chose the name Invictus because it is Latin for unconquered. The first Invictus games were held last year in London. Team Canada consisted of just 11 members. It has more than doubled for this year's games in Orlando, Florida.
Last week Harry announced next year's Invictus games will be in Toronto. Canadian organizers are hoping to field as many as 100 competitors
Retired Master Cpl.l Natacha Dupuis made this year's team just last month. The power lifter is already thinking about making next year's team as well. Dupuis has battled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since watching two comrades die in an explosion during her second tour in Afghanistan.
"Sports helped me regain confidence within myself developing new abilities," she said. "because for myself, I'm 36 years old, and yes I have PTSD, but life is surely not over."
Retired Cpl. Christine Gauthier also turned to sports to pull herself out of a dark period. A training accident in 1989 injured her back and knees. She now has to use a wheelchair. The 45 year-old says discovering a love for kayaking helped her overcome depression and isolation.
Now Gauthier is a five-time world champion in the paracanoe. She's vying for a spot on Canada's Paralympic team heading to Rio this summer. But first, the Invicus Games.
"It's giving me the extra opportunity to service my country again and I'm very proud of that," said Gauthier.
Gauthier is fascinated by the possibility soldiers who may have been injured fighting against each other may now find common ground competing on the sports field.
"It's not about settling the score. It's just to say look where cross roads have brought us," she said. "One for wartime for purposes that where there then. Now, it's about meeting those brothers in arms in comradery. How amazing would that be?"
The Orlando Invictus games will be held May 8 to May 12.