This year’s Invictus Games saw 500 athletes from 18 nations compete down under in Sydney. The games celebrate the camaraderie and perseverance that comes with serving in the Armed Forces.
Invictus is the Latin word for unconquered and the Invictus Games represents wounded, injured and ill servicemen and women who are just that.
The Games were launched by Prince Harry after he visited the Warrior Games in the United States in 2013. After seeing the positive impact of sport on recovery, he vowed to launch a similar event in the UK.
In 2014 the first Invictus Games took place in London with more than 400 competitors from 13 nations. In the last four years the games have travelled to Florida, Toronto and this year, Sydney. As awareness of the Games has grown, so have the numbers: this year 500 athletes from 18 nations competed.
As the Games mature, the core message stays the same: wounded, injured and ill servicemen and women have been tested and challenged, but they have not been overcome.
— Spotlight (@BBCSpotlight) December 14, 2018
Mark Ormrod applied to join the Royal Marines at age 16, beginning his training at age 17 and deploying to Iraq in 2003 at just 19-years-old. After completing his minimum service in 2006, Mark left the Marines to re-train as a bodyguard. He found little success in the career and re-joined in 2007 before being deployed to Afghanistan.
On Christmas Eve 2007 Mark was on a routine foot patrol when he stepped on and triggered an IED. In order to survive, both his legs and his right arm was amputated, making Mark the UK’s first triple amputee to survive the Afghanistan conflict.
After spending weeks in hospital and attending rehabilitation, Mark started working at the Royal Marines Charity. “It was really good for me because I didn’t want to leave and now it feels like I never did,” says Mark. “I’m still with the lads in that world.”
Every Christmas Mark sets himself goals for the year ahead. When he sat down to write them out in 2016 he thought about 2017 marking 10 years since his accident. “I was aware of the Games from friends that had competed and I just decided to jump into the deep end to celebrate 10 years,” explains Mark. “I never expected to make the team and didn’t know anyone – I had no experience. I was lucky, so I entered that world and started training.”
In September 2017 Mark travelled to Toronto, Canada where he would compete in six events; winning two silver and two bronze medals. “Sport is used as an aid to your recovery,” says Mark. He was also awarded the Jaguar Award for Exceptional Performance, Determination and Dedication.
A career with the Royal Marines Charity allowed Mark to maintain his connection to the Military world, but this was advanced by his participation in the Games. “For a lot of people, it’s about being in that environment,” adds Mark. “Having the banter, being in a team, having a group of like-minded individuals around you.”
GOING FOR GOLD
For Mark four medals and the prestigious Jaguar Award were not enough: he wanted to go for gold. “I’m quite ambitious and in my own head quite ruthless towards achieving my goals, although I got the award and ended up with two silver and two bronzes my OCD kicked in and I thought, ‘I haven’t reached the top of the mountain
yet’,” says Mark.
After some deliberation he made the decision to apply for the 2018 Games. “I thought I need to get two gold medals, two of each, so I went through the process again, this time I had experience and knowledge,” explains Mark. That appreciation and skill paid off as Mark left the 2018 Games with a total of seven medals – four of them gold.
“I didn’t expect to come away with seven. I’m officially going to stop competing now because I don’t
think I could top the last two years unless I went and got 10 golds,” laughs Mark. “Anything else would be an anti-climax, hopefully now I can help other people.”
The camaraderie experienced in the Armed Forces is ever-present at the Games, something Mark showcased in Sydney when he stepped in to prevent a race from being cancelled. The 50-metre breaststroke only had one other competitor. “I’d never swam breaststroke before,” adds Mark.
“I did 75 metres in the pool on the day of the race to figure out how to propel myself forward to have a go. That’s what it’s about, having a go, pushing yourself, and trying to better yourself.” Joining the race late didn’t stop Mark who went onto win another gold medal.
Just what I needed before my last event, a morale visit from #DavidBeckham at @InvictusSydney 🤙🏻🤙🏻🤙🏻
— Mark Ormrod MBE (@MarkOrmrod) October 26, 2018
Mark now plans to retire as an Invictus athlete, but hopes to maintain some involvement with the Games. “They started an ambassador programme for previous competitors to come along to training sessions to help the new athletes, and talk about what it’s like to compete; hopefully I can do that,” says Mark.
The next Invictus Games will take place at The Hague in the Netherlands in 2020 and Mark will be there to cheer his fellow servicemen and women on. He says: “It’s only a hop across the euro tunnel, I’ll probably go with a beer in hand and enjoy not competing.”
Now with 11 Invictus medals to his name, Mark would urge anyone considering competing to go for it. “Step outside your comfort zone,” encourages Mark. “I’ve seen it change people’s lives, the power of being involved is phenomenal. It’s not about medals, it’s about improving yourself as a person.”
Strong, resilient and determined, Mark Ormrod embodies the true values of the Invictus Games. The fifth Invictus Games in 2020 will continue to bring nations and veterans together through sport.
FIND OUT MORE
To find out more about The Hague 2020 visit www.invictusgamesfoundation.org
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