The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has named its 22-strong team to compete at the 2022 Invictus Games in Düsseldorf, Germany in September next year.
Established by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, the event uses the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate understanding and respect for wounded, injured or ill current and former servicemen and servicewomen. The word ‘invictus’ means ‘unconquered’.
Reaching the sixth Invictus Games has been a long road for the New Zealand team, most of whom were selected in 2019 for the 2020 Games which were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In mid-2021, the NZDF Adaptive Sport Committee made the decision not to participate in the 2022 Games held in The Hague and to instead concentrate efforts on Düsseldorf.
New Zealand competitors who had been selected to participate in the 2020 event were given preferential selection for 2023, as long as there had been no substantive change in their health status.
Team co-captain Major Buffy Little, a Nursing Officer in the New Zealand Army, said taking part in the Düsseldorf event was about continuing a journey that started in 2019.
“The team was unable to achieve what we set out to do, due to Covid-19. I feel I still have unfinished business with my personal journey too, and being selected for the 2023 Games gives me a great opportunity to complete this chapter.
“It is a massive honour and privilege to be selected to co-captain, alongside Bob, and to represent our teammates, our country and for me to represent and honour the friends and colleagues I have lost over the years while serving with the NZDF,” said Major Little.
Her fellow co-captain Bob Pearce, a former Intelligence Operator with both the British Army and New Zealand Army, said the team was unique as most of them have spent close to four years together.
“Every one of us has served our country with the best intentions and have been injured in the line of duty. The bonds we have within the team are unbreakable and also exist outside the team, extending to the whole Invictus whānau and family.
“Being around my teammates, sharing in their journeys and hearing how the Invictus Games is assisting them in their recovery has also been a part of my recovery. I feel privileged to have been offered this opportunity,” said Mr Pearce.
The team will take part in a series of training camps prior to heading to Düsseldorf for the games, which will be held from 9-16 September.
Under the motto “A Home For Respect” the city of Düsseldorf, together with the German Armed Forces, will welcome 500 competitors from more than 20 nations to compete in 10 disciplines. They’ll be cheered on by around 1,000 family members and friends.