Injured troops on their marks as Invictus Games begin

11th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

The battle for medals got under way Thursday at the Invictus Games, a Paralympics-style event for wounded troops organised by Britain's Prince Harry.

Track and field competitors lined up at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in east London for the first of four days of action across nine different sports.

A total of 416 wounded troops from 13 countries -- both serving and veterans -- were welcomed to the inaugural Games by Harry at Wednesday's opening ceremony.

Some 128 competitors took their marks Thursday for races over 100, 200, 400 and 1,500 metres, while 112 were taking part in the shot put and discus field events.

Harry, fourth in line to the throne and a serving British army captain who completed two tours in Afghanistan, was joined by his brother Prince William for the athletics sessions.

At the opening ceremony, Harry, who turns 30 on Monday, had said the journey to the start line had been a "huge achievement" for each competitor.

Captain Nick Beighton, who was discharged from Britain's Royal Engineers corps in April, was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) while serving in Afghanistan in 2009.

The 32-year-old is targeting a medal in Friday's indoor rowing competition -- having come fourth in the mixed double sculls at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

"We've all overcome big barriers in life that stop you doing things. That's universal to everyone here from all the nations. It's really nice to share that," he told AFP.

"I was just on a routine foot patrol one evening and trod on an IED, just going about my day to day job. I was unlucky but it's the same story as many people here.

"I broke my pelvis quite badly and I lost both legs above the knee as well, plus a few internal injuries and some damage to my right arm.

"It's not a smooth ride. There's ups and downs," he said.

The four-day event is centred on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which hosted the London 2012 Games.

The participating countries are Afghanistan, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States.

Following Thursday's athletics, the wheelchair rugby and archery take place on Friday.

Harry is to put himself on the line in an exhibition game of wheelchair rugby -- nicknamed "murderball" for its ferocity.

Saturday's action includes wheelchair basketball, road cycling and indoor rowing, while Sunday sees the sitting volleyball, powerlifting and swimming sessions before the closing concert.

© 2014 AFP

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