Double amputee Ashley Hall, from Colchester, part of 90-strong UK team in Invictus Games 2017
- Credit: PA
Four men from Essex are among the sick or injured armed service personnel and veterans who will represent the UK in this year’s Invictus Games.
During a launch event in London today, Prince Harry met the 90-strong team who will take part in the Paralympic-style competition in Toronto, Canada, this September.
After posing for pictures, Harry spent a few moments chatting to the athletes and told some of them what to expect during the contest.
He said: “For some of you it will be really hard work, but at the end of it you will have a medal, or not, but you’re going to have an amazing experience.”
Harry has been the driving force behind the Invictus Games for injured, wounded and sick servicemen and women and veterans.
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He staged the inaugural event in London in 2014 and had further success with the Orlando Games last year.
The Games uses sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding for those who serve their country.
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The UK is one of 17 nations represented, with more than 550 athletes competing in 12 adaptive sports.
The four Essex athletes taking part are: former Navy regular Paul Guest, who relies on a wheelchair and suffers from both visual and hearing impairments; ex-Reservist Craftsman Andrew Bracey, who uses a wheelchair and has post-traumatic stress disorder; and Major Bruce Ekman, who has served in the Army since 2004. Double amputee Ashley Hall, from Colchester, will also compete.
Ashley, who was in the Army for 10 years and lost his legs in 2010, said: “Since losing my legs, I’ve struggled to keep weight off and return to a body image I’m happy with. Wheelchair rugby training has helped me so much, and helped me feel more confident about myself.”
He will take part in the wheelchair rugby, powerlifting and athletics competitions in the Invictus Games.
At a reception at Plaisterers’ Hall, Harry told the UK team: “The Invictus Games has always been a launch pad, everyone is here for different reasons and only you will know that reason, you and your family and your friends as well.
“But make the most of this opportunity, this is your opportunity, your chance, and for many of you I know this is a second chance at life.
“I know that many of you here have struggled over the years, and some have struggled more than others, but the fact of the matter is you’re here now and therefore you have this amazing journey, this amazing opportunity in front you.”
Later today Harry, a former Army officer, is due to join current and former service personnel at the annual Not Forgotten Association Garden Party.