Amongst cheering crowds within world-class stadiums, a multitude of international athletes has descended upon Ontario for another exciting series of significant competitions. Within the highly-focused participants of the Invictus Games are fiercely competitive athletes from Barrie. One of them was just announced to be the privileged Team Canada flag-bearer for the Opening Ceremony on September 23 at the Air Canada Centre.
Established by Prince Harry, the inaugural Invictus Games took place in London in 2014. All Invictus Games competitors are active duty and veteran service members from participating allied nations who have become wounded, ill or injured during or as a direct consequence of their service. The objective is to shine a spotlight on the sacrifices that ill, wounded and injured servicemen and women have made serving their respective countries, while offering a powerful demonstration of their drive to overcome adversity.
At the launch of the inaugural games, the Prince stated that the Games would “demonstrate the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and demonstrate life beyond disability.”
Leading Team Canada as the flag-bearer will be Corporal (Retired) Phil Badanai, a Canadian Army veteran. The Barrie resident joined the military in 1992 and spent 16 years on international assignments and later as a military firefighter. He now works at Bombardier Aerospace in Toronto.
“I’m incredibly thrilled to be selected the flag-bearer for the opening ceremony. All the athletes on Team Canada have worked very hard to get here and it will be an honour to lead these awesome people,” said Badanai. “We’re all excited and can’t wait to get started.”
The announcement was made by Canada’s Governor General David Johnson, who will be attending the opening of the games. Johnson and his wife Sharon hosted the Team Canada competitors at Rideau Hall.
Badanai will be competing in indoor rowing, wheelchair tennis, and wheelchair rugby. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and then some,” said Badanai.
Also competing will be Sergeant (Retired) Al McFarlane, a Barrie resident and former aviation technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force. McFarlane, who entered the military in 1981, was also an air crash investigator in Afghanistan and later a military recruiter for six years before retiring.
“The games have given me a new lease on life as a PTSD sufferer and given me a great opportunity to meet and perform with like-minded individuals,” McFarlane reflected. He’ll be representing Team Canada as archery competitor and has been training enthusiastically at the Wolf’s Den archery range in Utopia, Ontario.
In addition to archery, indoor rowing, and a range of track and field events, over 500 participants from 17 countries will also compete in cycling, golf, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis. Title sponsor Jaguar Land Rover will also host a team-based driving challenge which the public can later experience for fun.
In 2016, the games were held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Following Toronto, the 2018 games will be held in Sydney, Australia. Tickets and other details for the September 23 to 30 games can be found at http://www.invictusgames2017.com/
Photo: Invictus Games athlete Phil Badanai.