By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Warrior Care and TransitionOctober 17, 2017
ARLINGTON - As the Invictus Games 2017 came to a close on September 30, the athletes, families and fans in attendance were reflecting on the many accomplishments of the 17 teams in attendance.
"You inspired each other and millions of people around the world," Invictus Games CEO Michael Burns said while addressing the athletes. "You showed us what it means to be unconquerable."
For most, Invictus Games 2017 was the culmination of months of hard work and victory over some of their greatest challenges. While many of those challenges were physical, for some, they were more mental and emotional.
Such was the case for Team Afghanistan - the winners of the Land Rover Above and Beyond Award - whose 7 athletes had to move away from their families just to train for the Games in a safe environment.
"I told you to prepare to see the true meaning of teamwork, but who could have imagined just the kind of teamwork we saw," said Prince Harry of Wales, who established the Games in 2014.
As for Team U.S., who took home a total of 29 medals during the Games, the sentimental ending marked the beginning of a new journey: the road to Invictus Games 2018.
"Prince Harry charged us to carry on the spirit of Invictus which also made us aware that we are preparing for next year. Many of us hope that we can continue our recovery in preparation for next year's Invictus Games in Australia," said first time participant and U.S. Army Maj. James Pradke.
Applications for the 2018 Invictus Games are expected to go out in the next few months, so many Army athletes aren't taking any downtime coming off their impressive performance in Toronto.
"For the Invictus Games selection, athletes submit their results from a qualifying competition and an application with personal information on why they want to go," said WCT Adaptive Reconditioning Program Manager Jennifer Sullivan. "It's important now to train and sign up for a competition so you have results to submit."
For those who are not building off the Invictus Games 2017 momentum, there is still plenty of time to mentally and physically prepare. Selection for 2018 won't happen until March or April.
"Athletes have time to get back in shape, start training, sign up for a race or competition or go to one of the regional trials in Hawaii or Fort Benning, GA, if they are local to that area," said Sullivan. "It's very powerful to see what some of the athletes are already doing to condition their bodies and get in shape to represent Team U.S."
According to Burns, that unwavering fortitude is what the Invictus Games are all about.
"Invictus began as a competition, but it has become a movement," said Burns. "We will continue to turn empathy into empowerment for all our wounded warriors."