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Harry hails Team UK squad set to compete at winter Invictus Games

The Duke of Sussex said he is excited to see the competitors’ ‘passion, determination, and resilience on full display’.

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The Duke of Sussex (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The Duke of Sussex has hailed the wounded, injured and sick serving UK personnel and veterans who are to take part in the the first Invictus Games to include winter sports.

The Royal British Legion and Ministry of Defence have named a 64-strong squad, made up of 60 competitors and four reserves, as Team UK for the Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler in February.

Harry said he is excited “to see their passion, determination, and resilience on full display as they take on this new chapter”.

Invictus Games – Vancouver Whistler
(left to right) James Cairns, Gemma Barns, Mina Endeley and Kayleigh Pierce during the launch of Team UK at Snozone in Milton Keynes. Jacob King/PA

The Invictus Games was established in 2014 by Harry as an international adaptive multi-sport event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans to participate in as part of their recovery journey.

Team UK were unveiled to the nation during a fun-filled event at Snozone in Milton Keynes where some of the competitors showed off their winter sports skills.

Harry said: “Congratulations to those selected for Team UK for our first-ever Winter Invictus Games in Vancouver Whistler next February.

“Team UK will join over 500 competitors from across 20 nations in this groundbreaking event that expands the range and profile of winter adaptive sports.

Invictus Games – Vancouver Whistler
Invictus Team UK members take to the slopes during the launch event. Jacob King/PA

“These games present an incredible opportunity for our courageous service personnel and veterans to demonstrate their skills in new challenges like alpine skiing, snowboarding and skeleton, as well as providing a truly memorable experience for their families.

“We’re excited to see their passion, determination, and resilience on full display as they take on this new chapter.”

The team includes people from all services and of different generations, some of whom are facing challenging physical and mental injuries sustained while serving the UK either at home or abroad.

They have a range of injuries including visual impairment, amputation, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and mental health issues – and have been selected based on the benefit that training for, and competing at the games, will contribute towards their recovery.

Invictus Games – Dusseldorf
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during the closing ceremony of the 2023 Invictus Games in Dusseldorf (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Louise Assioun, the Royal British Legion’s Team UK manager, said: “For the selected individuals, being part of a team again, representing their country and being around others who are all on their individual recovery pathway is what makes Team UK’s journey to the Invictus Games so unique.

“The Royal British Legion is proud to support them every step of the way.”

Team captain, Stephen “Hoops” Hooper, is returning for his second Invictus Games after competing in powerlifting and sitting volleyball at Dusseldorf in 2023.

Hoops, who served in the RAF and was diagnosed with PTSD before being medically discharged in 2021, said: “To be selected for Team UK again was overwhelming in itself, but to be captain as well, is a privilege.

Invictus Games – Vancouver Whistler
Team UK will travel to Canada next year for the paralympic-stye sporting event. Jacob King/PA

“I gained a lot from the whole Team UK experience last time around, I’ve gone from standing in the corner of a room and not talking to anybody, to finding my voice again. And that’s what I want to do for others this time, make sure every member of Team UK comes together and takes those steps forward in their recovery.”

Juliet Bale, 54, served as a nurse in the RAF and Army before being medically discharged after sustaining a traumatic brain injury on operation in Kenya.

She said it had been been difficult to adapt to a life of being cared for due to her injury.

She said: “I went from being a nurse with a Master’s degree, to somebody who struggled to make a cup of tea, but being part of Team UK has already made me realise that there’s so much out there that I can do.

“I’ve been introduced to new sports, new friends, and I have a feeling of belonging again.”

Defence Secretary John Healey also congratulated the squad, saying “their strength, resilience and dedication are an inspiration to us all”.

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