This poem was the inspiration for the name of the games. Generations have drawn on the words of William Ernest Henley’s poem for strength during times of adversity. Henley was himself an amputee and the poem reflects his long battle with illness. The title means “unconquered” and the 16 short lines of the poem encapsulate the indefatigable human spirit, which is at the heart of the Invictus Games.
Paralympics and beyond
Sport for athletes with an impairment has existed for more than 100 years, and the first sports clubs for the deaf were already in existence in 1888 in Berlin.
It was not until after World War II, however, that it was widely introduced. In 1944, at the request of the British Government, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann opened a spinal injuries center at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain, and in time, rehabilitation sport evolved to recreational sport and then to competitive sport. On July 29, 1948, Dr. Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes which he named the Stoke Mandeville Games, a milestone in Paralympic history. They involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery.
The Stoke Mandeville Games later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then they have taken place every four years. In 1976 the first Winter Games in Paralympics history were held in Sweden, and as with the Summer Games, have taken place every four years, and include a Paralympics Opening Ceremony and Paralympics Closing Ceremony. Since the Summer Games of Seoul, Korea in 1988 and the Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992 the Games have also taken part in the same cities and venues as the Olympics.
Video #1 in the upper left corner gives an overview of the Paralympic’s history and Dr. Guttmann.
Video #2 in the upper right corner shows the first games, which were then called the Stoke Mandeville Games.
Video #3 in the bottom left corner shows the evolution of the Paralympic games by decade.
Alexis Shifflett – 25 – Sitting Volleyball
Alexis Shifflett is an American sitting volleyball player. She played at the 2016 Summer Paralympics, winning a gold medal, 2014 ParaVolley World Championships, 2018 ParaVolley World Championships, and 2019 Parapan American Games.
Check out more about Alexis here.
Josh Brewer – 26 – Wheelchair Rugby
Brewer got in an accident attempting to hop on a train car. He was introduced to wheelchair basketball as a way to stay active while he was in physical therapy at the hospital. He had the opportunity to play Rugby at the 2016 Paralympics, where he took home a silver medal.
Check out more about Josh here.
Jorge Sanchez – 29 – Wheelchair Basketball
Jorge Sanchez was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in his left femur at 8 years old. Though he grew up playing baseball and was introduced to wheelchair basketball at the age of 14. He competed for the University of Texas at Arlington and joined the US Paralympic team in 2013. He has earned 3 gold and 1 silver medal.
Check out more about Jorge here.
Eric Bennett – 47 – Archery
Eric Christopher Bennett is an American Paralympic archer from Surprise, Arizona and World Para-Archery Champion, as well as a Parapan American Games silver medalist. He is a four-time U.S. national champion. He has competed three times at the Summer Paralympics and won a gold medal at the 2015 World Championships in Men’s recurve.
Check out more about Eric here.
David Brown – 28 – Track & Field
David Brown is a visually impaired American sprint runner. He competed over 100–400 m distances at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics and 2013 and 2015 world championships and won the 100 m event in 2015 and 2016. In 2014 he became the first totally blind athlete to run 100 m within 11 seconds.
Check out more about David here.
Scout Bassett – 32 – Track & Field
Scout Bassett is an American Paralympic Track & Field Athlete. She first started to compete in triathlons. Bassett transitioned to track and field before the paratriathlon event was introduced in the 2016 Summer Paralympics. She is currently the world record holder in the 400m T42 and American holder in 100m and 200m.
Check out more about Scout here.
Special Olympics History
In June 1963, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp called Camp Shriver for children with intellectual and physical disabilities at her home in Potomac, Maryland. The camp sought to address the concern that disabled children had very little opportunity to participate in organized athletic events. With Camp Shriver as an example, Kennedy Shriver, head of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, promoted the concept of involvement in physical activity and other opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Camp Shriver became an annual event, and the Kennedy Foundation gave grants to universities, recreation departments, and community centers to hold similar camps.
The first Special Olympic games were held on July 20, 1968, in Chicago, Illinois, with about 1000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada. At those first games, honorary event chair Eunice Kennedy Shriver announced the formation of the Special Olympics organization. The first World Winter Games were held in 1977 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, US. Austria hosted the first Winter Games outside the United States in 1993.
Meet some Special Olympic competitors here.
Invictus Games History
The Invictus Games is an international sporting event for wounded, injured, and sick Servicemen and women, both serving and veterans. The Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect of all those who serve their country. The word ‘Invictus’ means ‘unconquered’, chosen as an embodiment of the fighting spirit of the wounded, injured, and sick service personnel and what they can achieve, post-injury. The Invictus Games were founded by Prince Harry. The inspiration came from his visit to the Warrior Games in the USA, where he witnessed how sport can really help both psychologically and physically.
The first Invictus Games took place in September 2014 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, United Kingdom. The 2014 opening ceremony was organized by Harry and attended by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, and Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark. The event also included a recorded message from the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. The second games opened on 8 May 2016 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, near Orlando, Florida, United States. The games were organized by Harry. First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, former U.S. President George W. Bush, and many other dignitaries attended. U.S. President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II helped make a promotional video for the 2016 event. The third games were held in September 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The 2018 games were held in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and attended by both Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.
The 2020 games were scheduled to be held in The Hague, Netherlands in May 2020, but were postponed to 2022.
'Invictus' by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The Warrior Games, first held in 2010, celebrates the resiliency and dedication of wounded, ill and injured active-duty and veteran U.S. military service members and enhances their recovery and rehabilitation by providing them exposure to adaptive sports. Participation in the Warrior Games represents the culmination of a service member’s involvement in an adaptive sports program and demonstrates the incredible potential of wounded warriors through competitive sports.
The 2021 Warrior Games will once again be open to the public, welcoming the community and the world to be a part of the excitement and to support these heroes. The Department of Defense 2021 Warrior Games will take place Sept. 12 to 22 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. The opening ceremony for the games will take place Sept. 12, and the closing ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 22. During the games hundreds of elite athletes, including athletes from international allied nations, will compete in the following 12 adaptive sporting events: sitting volleyball, powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, golf, shooting, swimming, indoor rowing, archery, and track & field.
Check out more information about the Warrior Games here.