The UK Invictus team depart today for Toronto, this year’s host for the third Invictus games. This incredible event goes from strength to strength and this year sees Romania and the Ukraine join the other 14 nations for the first time. We can take pride in our connection with Invictus: we led on creating a wheelchair rugby version for the inaugural London games in 2014 and our staff and colleagues such as Martyn Salt and Roma Sports have supported all three games.
The UK wheelchair rugby team is coached by our own Paul Jenkins and the team captained by Stuart Robinson who is also in the GB elite squad. It is a wonderful event to be a part of and sits well alongside our work with the Personnel Recovery Centres which is supported by Help 4 Heroes. Over the last year in addition to the Invictus training we have delivered 20 wheelchair rugby sessions in the centres and they have become an important part of the recovery journey for a number of service veterans. I am really proud of the work we continue to do in this area and as a former naval officer I just know how much it means to be with fellow servicemen and women and to feel part of something quite special. A big thank you to all in GBWR who support this work.
Jenx has worked hard with his Invictus squad of 14 athletes and we hope they have a great time and can build on the successes of the last 2 games where they won gold in London and bronze in Orlando. I know he would like me to thank GB Head Coach and his staff and the many clubs who have helped him prepare the team for the competition ahead which will be strong.
The team is:
Stuart Robinson (Captain), Charlie Walker, Ashley Hall, Arron Dindyal, Clive Smith, Jeff Robinson, Bernie Broad, Tom Boney, Paul Nichole, Martin Tye, Steven Boulton. Reserves: Seveci Navlinikoro, Frank Aveh, Pa Nodou Nije.
UK is in Pool A along with the USA (coached by James Gumbert the USA Paralympic coach and a great friend of GB), France and Italy. They will play the USA in their first pool match. Pool B brings together Denmark, NZ, Australia and Canada. This is the first time Canada has entered a wheelchair rugby team in the competition. The BBC is covering the event with Steve Brown commentating and you can also get updates on the Invictus Games website //www.invictusgames2017.com
Our fundraising efforts for the GB squad continue and we have a number of things in various stages of planning which I hope to be able to reveal more detail of soon. This week we received an anonymous donation of £10,000 to help get the team to Tokyo. If the donor is reading this then I cannot thank you enough for what this means to our programme. It will pay for three training camps or a chunk of the cost of an overseas event – it really will make a difference thank you! Next week I will be meeting with the head coach to agree next year’s programme which despite our financial challenges I intend to be an exciting and challenging one including bringing the top teams in the world to GB for a tournament! More of that for another time! I shared this plan with the Board of Trustees when we met last night and was delighted though not surprised that our ambitious plans were shared and supported by all of them. We should be proud of our Board all of whom are very active behind the scenes and are as committed as any of us to having a competitive team in Japan.
I was so pleased to see that Professor Vicky Tolfrey was awarded the Paralympic Scientific Award in Toronto last night for her research across disability sport. She and her colleagues at the Peter Harrison Centre at Loughborough have been of immense importance to raising the professionalism of our sport. Her research has influenced a number of ways in which we train and support our athletes. We recently met with her to discuss how we could continue to work together bearing in mind our financial situation. Typically she has helped come up with ways where we can maintain a strong partnership with the centre and our athletes continue to benefit from her expertise. Vicky is an amazing lady and we are fortunate to have her in our camp – congratulations on this recognition Vicky!
Another award recipient is the Dorset Destroyers who this week received the ‘Everyone Active Team of the Year’ award at the Magna Academy. There are lots of interesting things happening in the Dorset club and its great to see the energy and enthusiasm that is there – congratulations to them.
Next week sees the start of the Division 1 Super Series tournament in Leicester so good luck to all the teams in what I think will be a very competitive and high standard of competition this year.
And finally….please note that this year’s AGM will be on 8 November at Twickenham so mark your diaries as it will be good to see as many of you as can get there and to share the good and the bad story of the last year!