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Invictus Games 2017: Prince Harry unveils West Country athletes

Invictus Games 2017: the team unveiled. Credit: PA

Prince Harry has unveiled the West Country competitors who will form part of the UK team at this year's Invictus Games.

The squad of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans were selected from more than 300 triallists across 11 sports to head to Canada at the end of September for the Paralympic-style competition.

Meet the West Country's athletes:

  • Karl Allen-Dobson - Devon
Karl Allen-Dobson. Credit: Help for Heroes

Competing in his first ever Invictus Games, the 34 year old served as a Lance Corporal in the Army before he was medically discharged due to physical injuries in 2007. He is looking forward to being a part of the Invictus Games team and interacting with men and women with the same sense of military humour.

Being part of the training camps was a breath of fresh air and seeing people I've not seen for over 10 years was uplifting. It means a lot to me.

– Karl Allen-Dobson
  • Ross Austen - Devon
Ross Austen. Credit: Help for Heroes

Serving with the Royal Engineers on tour of Afghanistan in 2008, Powerlifter Ross Austen was severely injured in both his legs and underwent 10 emergency operations before being flown home, spending six weeks in intensive care. Ross went on to spend over three years in rehab, undergoing a further 32 operations, including the amputation of his left leg.

Sport has played a big role in my life and I wouldn't be here if it was not for sport. Being part of the Invictus family is amazing and enables me to help and inspire others.

It is a great stepping stone for my career as an athlete to process onto the GB team.

– Ross Austen
  • Corporal Tom Boney - Wiltshire
Corporal Tom Boney Credit: Help for Heroes

Former Corporal in the Army, 34-year-old Tom has a spinal cord injury and mental health difficulties. He is incredibly passionate about Wheelchair Rugby and competed in the 2016 Games in Orlando. He said he cannot wait to experience that atmosphere again.

The previous Games set me on the right path and I want to continue down that journey using this Invictus Games as a launch board. The last Games boosted my confidence and being part of a team again after being discharged is a big thing for me - it gives me a sense of belonging.

– Tom Boney
  • Mark Bowra - Dorset
Mark Bowra. Credit: Help for Heroes

Mark Bowra, a Lt Col with the Royal Marines, had his life change dramatically when he suffered a stroke. Taking part in the Invictus Games 2016 was a massive achievement for Mark and gave him back a sense of self-worth. Taking part in the Games helped him to feel he was doing something to make his children proud of him again and enabled him to regain a sense of camaraderie as aphasia can be very isolating. It has also helped him realise that there are all sorts of sports that he can still participate in despite severe disability. He is rebuilding his life away from sports too and took part in the X Forces self-employment course, funded by H4H, with the intention of setting up a business providing kit bags to help others with a brain injury begin their own rehab and recovery.

  • Lindsay Chapman - Dorset
Lindsay Chapman. Credit: Help for Heroes.

Lindsay, who will be competing in athletics and rowing, was a Private in the Army. Nearly ten years ago, she was involved in a road traffic collision which left her paralysed from the chest down. The physical and mental challenges this brought saw her struggle to be in a military environment as it was a painful reminder of what she had lost. She struggled with her self-worth and experienced low confidence and depression, and was often unable to leave the house for days at a time.

Invictus will help me feel a sense of worth and purpose again by having a goal to aim for, as well as building my confidence and independence back up. For those who have supported me along the way and stood by my side, I want to win a medal for them to show my appreciation and make them proud

– Lindsay Chapman
  • Kelly Ganfield - Plymouth
Kelly Ganfield. Credit: Help for Heroes

Former Corporal Kelly Ganfield was medically discharged in 2005, and suffers from visual impairment as well as epilepsy. After she was discharged, everything from training to travelling to the gym on her own was a battle. But Kelly is working hard to overcome these challenges and is committed to becoming as independent as possible.

Meeting people and sharing experiences and knowing that I am not alone has helped me so much and I now know that anything is possible – I now have the desire to make it happen.

– Kelly Ganfield
  • Charmaine Healy - Gloucestershire
Charmaine Healy. Credit: Help for Heores

Army Veteran Charmaine Healy was medically discharged in 2014 as an amputee after serving her country for 12 years. Charmaine hopes to represent the UK team in powerlifting, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball, and hopes to undertake a coaching course after the Games.

Being able to represent my country would be the greatest achievement, and an honour to be amongst truly inspirational athletes. It will give me a huge sense of pride.

– Charmaine Healy
  • Joanne Hursey - Wiltshire
Joanne Hursey. Credit: Help for Heroes.

Jo has been serving with the Army since 1995. She sustained an injury to her left leg which left her with no anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. Diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, she also suffers with depression, anxiety, osteoarthritis and a hearing impairment. Jo was part of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014 and returns this year to compete in golf, athletics (shot put and discus), swimming and sitting volleyball. She is looking forward to challenging herself thanks to the newfound motivation the Games is giving her.

Although still serving, I can't be the soldier I want to be or indeed once was. Invictus has given me an aim, something to look forward to. I need to look forward and sport is the only way I know I can do this and give 100% in everything I do.

– Joanne Hursey
  • Corie Mapp - Wiltshire
Corie Mapp. Credit: Help for Heroes

Corie was injured in 2010 by an IED blast in Afghanistan, where he lost both legs below the knee. He was discharged from the Army in 2013. Discovering the power of sport in recovery, Corie has competed at the 2014 and 2016 Invictus Games and the Warrior Games. He is now a GB athlete in para bobsleigh and sitting volleyball. Corie will be competing in sitting volleyball and athletics (100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay) at Toronto 2017.

I hope I can inspire people from all walks of life, whether military or otherwise, and continue to serve my country in the best way possible by being a good sportsman and a role model for others to follow

– Corie Mapp
  • Alex Moulder - Gloucestershire
Alex Moulder. Credit: Help for Heroes

Alex served with the Royal Marines. He has been dealing with a number of mental health challenges but credits sport with filling a void and giving him new goals to aim for. Alex has been selected to compete in athletics (100 metres, 200 metres, 4x100 metres relay, shot put and discus), rowing, swimming and cycling.

Participating in sport has played a huge part in my road to recovery. I recognise that the structure of a training programme, and the drive and ambition that a team can give is invaluable. The Invictus Games has given me that empowerment and that hope. I have found a passion and a focus, and I am determined to succeed.

I want to be the best I can and can now see a future ahead. I can finally start seeing me.

– Alex Moulder
  • Dominic Nott - Devon
Dominic Nott Credit: Help for Heroes.

Dom serves with the Royal Navy. In 2015 he was diagnosed with a visual impairment. He was convinced it would mean he would be limited in everything he could do, but sport and Invictus has shown him he can still achieve things. Dom has been selected in rowing, swimming and athletics (shot put). He hopes to use the Games as a platform to other opportunities in life.

The Games will give me a focus and something to strive for, perhaps unlocking potential I was never aware of. Meeting all the other participants has enthused me to pick up the sportsperson mentality again. Invictus has made me fully aware that there are still opportunities to participate in something competitively

– Dom Nott
  • Cornelia Oosthuizen - Wiltshire
Cornelia Oosthuizen. Credit: Help for Heroes

A former Major in the Army, Cornelia will be competing in wheelchair tennis, swimming, cycling and golf at Toronto 2017. She has a functional impairment illness and reduced mobility. Cornelia represented the Army and Combined Services in several sports during her military career. Having dearly missed competing, she says it’s a privilege to be part of the UK Team for this year’s Games:

I've always been sporty. Being part of the Invictus Games will benefit my mental state immensely. It’s important to realise there’s so much you can still do. Competing gives me the chance to show how you can adapt to playing sport in different ways while meeting some great people

– Cornelia Oosthuizen
  • Mark Ormrod - Devon
Mark Ormrod. Credit: Help for Heroes

Former Royal Marine Commando Mark was out on a routine foot patrol in Helmand Province in 2007 when he stepped on and triggered an Improvised Explosive Device. He lost both his legs and right arm. Despite his injuries, Mark has refused to let himself be defined by them. He hopes to continue to learn, grow and improve by setting and reaching new goals.

Having concentrated on other areas during my recovery (including family and career) I missed the opportunities to get into sport. General health and fitness has always been a huge part of my life and I feel that now is the time for me to take it to a competitive level. Competing in the Games will help me feel that I have dominated my injuries.

– Mark Ormrod
  • Steven Palmer - Dorset
Steven Palmer Credit: Help for Heroes

A former Lance Corporal in the Army, Steve will be competing at his first Invictus Games in swimming (50 metre freestyle, 50 metre breaststroke, 50 metre backstroke, 100 metre freestyle and 4x50 metre freestyle relay). He is an amputee and was discharged from the Armed Forces in 2014. He is glad that Invictus is enabling him to set new goals in life:

Being part of the team is allowing me to have a goal-focused recovery pathway.

– Steven Palmer
  • Poppy Pawsey - Dorset
Poppy Pawsey Credit: Help for Heroes

Poppy was first involved in the inaugural Invictus Games when she performed as part of the Royal Marine Band Service. There she was amazed by the unwavering courage and determination shown by the competitors. Poppy was discharged in 2017 as result of a musculoskeletal illness. She struggled after returning to civilian life, feeling stuck in an unbreakable cycle of anger, pain and depression. Her self-confidence at an all-time low, she remembered the Invictus spirit from 2014 and believes now being part of the UK Team in Toronto is a key turning point in her life. She will be competing in swimming and archery.

I knew I had to break this destructive cycle and the Invictus Games helped me do this, giving me the courage, inspiration and drive to get my life back. I am determined to continue with my self-improvement. Being part of the team is the biggest honour.

– Poppy Pawsey
  • Tara Robertson - Somerset
Tara Robertson. Credit: Help for Heroes

Former Army Private Tara Robertson was medically discharged 18 years ago after a traumatic brain injury and visual impairment, but it is only recently she has felt the effects of psychological trauma. For Tara, who will compete as a cyclist in the UK Team for her first Invictus Games, sport has given her a focus and the opportunity to experience the camaraderie that she has missed since leaving the military. Tara explained:

The process of training for my chosen sport has helped me to remain focused on something positive when routine and mundane tasks have proved difficult. When I attended the cycle training camp I had forgotten how comfortable being in this environment could be and I realised how much I missed the camaraderie since leaving the forces all those years ago.

– Tara Robertson
  • Dave Sandles - Gloucestershire
Dave Sandles. Credit: Help for Heroes

Veteran Army Corporal Dave Sandles has lived with a spinal cord injury for 22 years. Last year he was given the opportunity to compete in cycling at the Invictus Games and this year he returns, adding rowing to his repertoire after realising it was a possibility while in Orlando. Dave confesses that his mental health has suffered in the past 12 months but he is now taking a different attitude to sport, integrating physical challenges into his day to day life to promote positive psychological wellbeing.

The journey I went on last year was a boost to me not just physically but also with my mental strength. Unfortunately I did not carry it on though and suffered greatly. This year I have chosen to try a new sport for me - rowing - something I did not realise I could do before seeing it in Orlando. The Games is not only an opportunity for me to get back to some sort of platform where I am content with life but also to show that people with my type of impairment are capable of so much.

– Dave Sandles
  • Daniel Spender - Gloucestershire
Daniel Spender Credit: Help for Heroes

Since losing his legs in 2011, former Army Colour Sergeant Danny Spender has focused his efforts on finding successful employment outside of the military to support his wife and three children. He achieved that goal and now feels the time is right to return to his roots and find a physical challenge to focus on. He will compete in swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball.

I was a very competitive and fit individual whilst I was serving, and I miss that competitive spirit and feeling when you push yourself physically to the limits. Competing in the Invictus Games will let me find that drive again and take my recovery to the next level. It’ll mean I can have a second professional career and support my family but I can also find my competitive self again.

– Daniel Spender
  • Andrew White - Devon
Andrew White. Credit: Help for Heroes

Andrew White, a former Army Lance Corporal, felt his life had just begun having been promoted and returned from a tour to Afghanistan. But a severe non-freezing cold injury to his feet instead saw him medically discharged early in his career. Months of depression followed, but he finally sought the help he need to rebuild his life and reignited his love of cycling, which he will compete in at the Invictus Games 2017.

The Invictus Games has given me something other than my injuries to focus on. Until that point I realised that I had just been waiting for the life to be done. I have been training for the last year with the help and support of my family specifically for the Games.

Being part of the training camps have really made me feel part of a like-minded team which has given me the inspiration and drive to continue on my road to recovery.

– Andrew White

The squad includes more than 60% debutants in the Invictus Games, which began in 2014, who will go up against 460 competitors from 16 other nations.

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The UK team will compete in 11 of the 12 sports: athletics; archery; wheelchair basketball; cycling; powerlifting; indoor rowing; wheelchair rugby; swimming, sitting volleyball, wheelchair tennis and - for the first time - golf.

The Invictus Games Toronto 2017 will take place from 23 - 30 September.