The New Zealand Defence Force Invictus Games medal winners: left to right, Josephine Barrett (ex-Army), Glenn Barnes (ex- Army), Nu Filo (ex-Army), Corporal Kelly Whittle (Army), Sergeant Gareth Pratt (Army), team captain David Sherriff (ex-Air Force) and Chief Petty Officer Amy Baynes (Navy)
14 May 2016
The NZ Defence Force (NZDF) Invictus Games team has taken out nine medals over four hard-fought days of competition at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.
Following selection in late 2015, the 18-strong team put in hours of training over nine adaptive sports in a bid to bring back gold for New Zealand. Local sports clubs and organisations threw their support behind the team early on, generously donating time, money and expertise to ensure individual athletes and teams performed at their best throughout the Games.
Alongside the support of the NZDF, the team received sponsorship from the Auckland RSA and Christchurch Memorial RSA, BLK Sport, Fulton Hogan, the OffLimits Trust and the Fallen Heroes Trust to get them to the Games.
"The support we have received from the NZDF, our main team sponsors, and across New Zealand has been amazing," said medal winner Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Amy Baynes. "Without that support, we just couldn't compete at events like Invictus.
"A lot of team members have been individually supported too. I know that sporting clubs and individuals across the country have opened their doors to team members for free. Many of us have received individual sponsorship for items of equipment we wouldn’t be able to get otherwise."
CPO Baynes herself received sponsorship from Gore RSA to help purchase the bike that she rode to win two silver medals.
Despite a busy competing schedule and the Florida heat, team members beat personal bests and won medals alongside 500 competitors from 14 other countries, rekindling friendships that were formed on operations and reconnecting with competitors from the inaugural 2014 Invictus Games.
Following their wins, the team enjoyed a day to relax with the family and friends who came to support them as part of the official Family and Friends programme that runs alongside the Games.
Lei Henry, wife of competitor Warrant Officer Class One Bari Henry, said that she had loved everything about being at the Games. "Spending time with families and friends from all over the country has been fantastic," she said.
"I have really enjoyed watching the competition, and seeing Bari compete was awesome. I'm very proud of him."
Lei said she has noted a difference in her husband since taking part in adaptive sporting events. "We've had a bit of a battle over the past few years, so this has been great for him. He concentrates more now on what the other athletes have faced and gone through."
For many of the team, this was their first time competing in adaptive sport, with a new set of skills required for the demands of the Games. This included 16 team members having to learn how to play competitive sport in wheelchairs.
Team captain David Sherriff said that he is very proud of the team.
“It has been an awesome effort. We've cleaned up more medals than we have in the past. I am particularly proud of Glenn Barnes for getting gold in the one minute row - but we got great results in all our events."
David himself had not played wheelchair tennis before the 2016 Games, but he and Glenn earned a silver in the finals on their last day of competition.
The Invictus Games promotes sport as part of recovery for those who have been injured or wounded, or who have become ill, during service to their country, and provides an opportunity to re-engage current and retired service people with sport.
"Set your goals. If you can include something like the Invictus Games or sport back home as part of your recovery, do it," said Army Sergeant Gareth Pratt.
David Sherriff agrees. "Definitely do it. Even if you're not eligible for Invictus, get into sport. It changes lives. It's great - not only physically, but emotionally and socially as well."
Following a day's rest, the team will head back to New Zealand and take a short break before preparations start for the next Invictus Games, scheduled to take place in Toronto, Canada in September 2017.