Invictus Games 2018: Armed forces event created by Prince Harry returns in Sydney

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A look back at previous Invictus Games in London, Orlando and Toronto
Invictus Games 2018
Dates: 20-27 October Venue: Sydney, Australia
TV coverage: Watch BBC One coverage every day from Saturday 20 October
Preview: 19:30 BST on Friday, 19 October

"Anything is possible - if you have the will," said the Duke of Sussex. "I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light."

The Invictus Games was set up by Prince Harry to give recovering armed forces personnel a goal to work towards and to show that there is hope after life-changing effects on the body or mind.

Returning for its fourth edition - and, for the first time, in the southern hemisphere - the seven-day event will see 500 competitors from 18 nations competing in 11 sports.

It's game on down under in Sydney from 20-27 October, and there will be daily coverage on BBC One and competitors' stories on BBC Get Inspired.

A royal odyssey

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle greated by 2017 Invictus Games participants during a wheelchair tennis match at Nathan Philips Square in Toronto
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attended a wheelchair tennis match at Nathan Philips Square in Toronto

The 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto saw Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make their first official public appearance together. Twelve months on, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will again attend, married and expecting a child in spring.

The Duke, who served in the army for 10 years, founded the Invictus Games after visiting the Warrior Games in 2013 and witnessing the positive impact sport had for injured servicemen and women.

Why 'Invictus'?

'I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul' - which you will see at venues in Sydney - are lines from the poem 'Invictus' by English poet William Ernest Henley, who himself suffered severe health problems and the amputation of his left leg.

The words are also etched on the two sides of the medals for the Games.

The presenter's personal experience

JJ Chalmers competing in the men's recumbent bike time trial during the first Invictus Games in London in 2014
Presenter JJ Chalmers lost two fingers, suffered facial and leg injuries and had his shattered right elbow rebuilt

JJ Chalmers, who will present the BBC One coverage with Alex Jones, knows first hand what the athletes will experience.

After a traumatic injury while serving in Afghanistan, JJ spent five years in rehabilitation before sport transformed his life.

"The Invictus Games 2014 is still the best week of my life," says the Scot.

"I couldn't believe what had been put on for us. But when I looked around me, I realised that they deserved to be treated like rock stars."

He competed in three events - the recumbent bike time trial, circuit race and 4x100m mixed relay - winning medals in all three.

When to watch the Invictus Games on BBC One
Friday 19 Oct - 19:30 BST (preview)Wednesday 24 Oct - 19:30 BST
Saturday 20 Oct - 17:30 BST (opening ceremony)Thursday 25 Oct - 20:00 BST
Sunday 21 Oct - 16:50 BSTFriday 26 Oct - 19:30 BST
Monday 22 Oct - 19:30 BSTSaturday 27 Oct - 13:15 BST
Tuesday 23 Oct - 19:00 BSTSaturday 27 Oct - 17:30 BST (closing ceremony)

"It's so much more than a sporting event. It is excellent sport but it's also the stories behind it," he added.

"That's why you are rooting for everybody at the start, not just the person that's going to win."

JJ has since presented at the 2016 Paralympics, 2017 Invictus Games and 2018 Commonwealth Games.

"The Invictus Games changed my life so I live for the opportunity to help showcase them as they continue to grow, educate, inspire and entertain."

The Team UK troops

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Team UK captain Mark ‘Dot’ Perkins introduces some of the squad competing in Sydney

The 72 UK team competitors were drawn from over 400 trialists for the squad.

One of the team members is Michelle Turner, who JJ believes embodies the transformational power of the Games.

"The first time I met her at the trials for the last Games she barely had any confidence in her sporting ability," he said.

"Now she is the bubbly character who everyone knew before her condition affected her, and she's vice-captain of the UK team.

"That is just everything as far as I'm concerned."

So how does it work?

  • Eligible nations are allocated a maximum number of competitors
  • Competitors register for their country's selection process. Anyone who has participated in (or is a current team member for) a Paralympic Games, World Championships or other international events is eligible
  • Participants can compete in as many individual and team sports as they wish, schedule and selection permitting
  • The schedule of events is planned to allow competitors to participate in as many sports as possible

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in the Invictus Games there are organisations that can help, as suggested here.