The New Zealand Invictus Games team says the journey to compete against other military veterans has been life-changing for some as they “smashed it” at this year’s tournament in Germany.
The 2023 Games, held in Düsseldorf, ended on Saturday after eight days of competition, with the closing ceremony was attended by Games’ patrons, Prince Harry and wife, Meghan Markle.
Team manager, Commander Julie Fitzell, said the Games had been life-changing for many.
“I have witnessed confidence, joy and strength grow within the team,” she said.
“What shone through at the Games and made our Kiwi team so special was our united strength – bonds created that will live well past the Games. They had each other’s backs and trusted each would catch the other if they stumbled.
“I’m immensely proud of their ability to push through the challenges they each have. They turned up and just smashed it, with many achieving personal bests beyond what they first thought capable.”
The Games are the only international adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured and ill active duty and veteran service members – harnessing the power of sport to inspire recovery and support rehabilitation.
This year’s Games attracted around 550 competitors from more than 20 nations competing in 10 sporting disciplines.
The 21-member New Zealand team, swinging poi at the closing ceremony, was led by flag-bearer, Able Communication Warfare Specialist (AWCS) Paulette Doctor, a double breast cancer survivor, who won the last of New Zealand’s five medals – a bronze in table tennis.
“Invictus means so very much to me, it’s helped me out of dark times and continues to uplift me when I’m low,” AWCS Doctor said.
“It fills my cup more than I think I deserve and for that I am so grateful and honoured.”
Head of Mission, Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell, said the Games were about providing people with opportunity.
He said the New Zealand team members had set their own objectives and goals, and they are all pursuing them in their own way.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s just making it round the track or winning a gold, it’s about doing what they can for themselves to the best of their ability and just enjoying the opportunity.”
More than 140,000 people attended the events, which were also livestreamed and broadcast world wide.
In his games-closing speech, Prince Harry said they had all witnessed the true impact sport had on competitors’ recovery and their post-traumatic growth.
“You have opened people’s hearts through your vulnerability, resilience and through your sheer abilities. You have shown us that joy can emerge from struggle. And for that, we are eternally grateful.”
German Federal President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the competitors’ strength to keep going every single day had brought them together in Düsseldorf.
“For eight days you have been together with people who understand precisely where you’re coming from when you tell your story. And that is exactly the reason for these Games.”
The next Invictus Games will be held in Canada in 2025.
New Zealand’s medals at the 2023 Invictus Games:
- Gold: 100m sprint – Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Leading Physical Training Instructor Jack Church;
- Silver: discus and indoor rowing – Royal New Zealand Air Force Flight Sergeant Stacey Adam and in powerlifting – NZ Army Staff Sergeant Melissa Hansen;
- Bronze: table tennis – RNZN Able Communication Warfare Specialist Paulette Doctor.