From the moment they departed Birmingham Airport to their triumphant arrival in Dusseldorf, the journey of Team UK in the Invictus Games 2023 has been nothing short of inspiring.
This year, 19 out of the 59 competitors that formed Team UK, hailed from the Royal Air Force veteran and military personnel community.
Initiated in 2014 by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, the Invictus Games gives personnel who are wounded, injured or ill in body greater recognition in society and supports their path to rehabilitation.
This year’s Games saw 550 competitors from across 21 countries come together to compete across 10 sports, including countries like Ukraine, Jordan and Australia.
Nine Team UK members are still serving within the UK Armed Forces, five of whom are in the RAF, and combine rehabilitation with roles that continue to uphold the safety and security of our skies.
Through military medical teams, Defence Recovery Centres and partnerships with military charities, service personnel are equipped with individual recovery plans and are given access to resources they need to help them return to duty or make a smooth transition to civilian life.
Lynsey Kelly joined the Royal Air Force in 2001 as a logistician under No.1 Air Mobility Wing but was medically discharged in 2010 following a Bilateral Anterior Compartment Syndrome diagnosis. Düsseldorf 2023 marked Lynsey's first Invictus Games and saw her win Bronze in the Women's 100m Freestyle Swimming. She said:
The joy and laughter of being around supportive, likeminded people in Invictus Team UK helps re-mind me of fantastic times I’ve had throughout my life. These have at times been overshadowed by sadness, pain, and negativity, but sports recovery has given me a new outlook on life.
Bad days will still come, but I now understand they are not permanent, only temporary. If I can achieve this, I truly believe anyone can. I’m not a failure, I’m proud of myself for doing this, and long may it continue!
In total, Team UK collected 69 medals, including golds in the Men's 100m Freestyle Swimming and Women's Shot Put as well as silver medals in Mixed Wheelchair Rugby. But medals are not the main focus of the Games, rather they aim to create a broader respect for all people who serve their country and honour those who have paid their commitment to our freedom with their mental and physical wellbeing.