14 September 2018
New Zealand Army Sergeant and former Southlander Kelly Whittle can’t wait to see the look on her teammates faces at the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 opening ceremony.
The Invictus Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate understanding and respect for wounded, injured and ill active service members and former members. This year’s event, in Sydney from 20-27 October, will involve competitors from 18 allied nations in 11 different adaptive sports.
Sergeant Whittle, an Army medic, has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and hip and shoulder injuries as a result of deployment to Afghanistan and working in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes.
This will be the third time she has represented the New Zealand Defence Force at the Games and she said it had been life-changing.
“It’s hard to put into words what the atmosphere is like. It’s one of the most incredible things I’ll experience in my lifetime,” she said.
“Some of the injuries you see make you realise that, in the scheme of things, you’re not bad off. You also realise you’re not defined by your injury.”
Sergeant Whittle competed for the first time in London in 2014, where she won two silver medals, and then in Orlando in 2016, where she won a bronze.
This year she’ll co-captain the New Zealand team and can’t wait to see how the new team members respond.
“The Invictus Games give you a whole new view and purpose in life. I tell the new competitors, ‘This is going to change your life’,” she said.
Sergeant Whittle grew up on Gale Hill Farms, near Lumsden, and attended Gore High School. A “farm girl at heart”, she could never have imagined meeting Invictus Games founder Prince Harry but said it was one of the most amazing events in her life.
“He looks at you as a person – he is one of us,” she said.
Her Army career has given her the best and worst times of her life but it’s something that could easily never have happened. She was working in a rest home in Gore after leaving school when she put in her Army application “for a laugh”.
She had always been sporty and had an interest in health, including being a St John youth volunteer. The Army seemed a natural fit but even she was surprised by just how good it was.
“I love this job and I’ll stay in it as long as they let me,” she said.
This year’s Invictus Games are being presented by Jaguar Land Rover. The NZDF team is sponsored by Auckland RSA, Christchurch Memorial RSA, Fulton Hogan, Jaguar Land Rover and Direct Sport.
Throughout the Games the team’s journey can be followed on:
NZDF Invictus Team Facebook: facebook.com/NZInvictusTeam
NZDF Invictus Team Instagram: @NZInvictusTeam
NZDF Twitter: @nzdefenceforce