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Canada's Invictus Games team trains at CFB Esquimalt

Canada’s 24-member team is at a training camp at CFB Esquimalt this week, getting ready for the 2023 Invictus Games from Sept. 9-16 in Dusseldorf, Germany
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Patrick Gordon, far right, rows with fellow members of Canada's team heading to the 2023 Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany, at a training camp at the Naden Athletic Centre at CFB Esquimalt. Story, page A3 DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Alaina Mundy’s world changed when she had multiple sclerosis diagnosed in 2020.

“It was scary and unnerving and my whole world crashed and I went into a hole,” said Mundy, who holds the rank of major in the Canadian Forces Health Services Group.

Mundy, now 41, turned to sports, starting “small” with yoga.

“Sport has been the best thing for my diagnosis,” she said.

Three years later, the Ottawa woman will compete in the 2023 Invictus Games Sept. 9-16 in Dusseldorf, Germany, ­representing Canada in cycling, running and seated volleyball.

This week, Mundy and the rest of Canada’s 24-member team is at a training camp at CFB Esquimalt.

The team is made up of 10 serving members and 14 veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces who acquired an illness or a physical or mental-health injury while serving Canada.

They will join about 500 athletes from 22 nations competing in 10 adaptive sports at the Invictus Games.

Armoured Corp. warrant officer Kenton Dill of Dresden, Ont., who will compete in ­swimming, rowing and seated volleyball, described the ­emotions in training camp as “like a firehose aimed at your brain.”

“It’s overwhelming. There are so many inspiring stories here that it gives you a new perspective.”

Dill, 46, returned from three tours of duty — two in Afghanistan and one in Bosnia and Croatia — with a right-side leg injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

He said he got a new lease on life, both physically and mentally, from sports and being active — and the Soldier On program, which leads to Invictus Games selection.

The Invictus Games were founded by Prince Harry for wounded, injured or sick service men and women, with the first games held in 2014 in London.

Prince Harry chose Invictus based on the poem of the same name by Englishman William Ernest Henley, which Nelson Mandela said helped sustain him through his decades of imprisonment — and which provided the storyline for the 2009 Clint Eastwood film Invictus about Mandela’s role in host South Africa’s stirring victory in the 1995 rugby World Cup.

Dusseldorf beat Victoria in the bidding for the 2023 Invictus Games. Victoria and Dusseldorf were the two finalists from an initial 44 cities that expressed interest in the 2023 games. Prince Harry sent a hand-signed letter to the Victoria bid committee, saying: “Your bid showed true commitment to the ethos and values of the Games.”

Canada will get its opportunity in 2025, when Vancouver and Whistler are set to host the Invictus Games. Beginning with the 2020 Games in The Hague, Netherlands, the games are held every two years. The Dusseldorf Games were originally scheduled for 2022 but were pushed back a year due to the pandemic.

The stories of those who ­compete in the Invictus Games are compelling, but not all ­injuries — such as PTSD — are obvious.

Some days, Mundy, whose MS was diagnosed as ­relapsing/remitting, can walk fairly normally, while on other days, ­simply getting up is a painful chore.

“Not all injuries are visible and I am one with an invisible illness,” said Mundy, whose goal for the games is to highlight invisible injuries.

Mundy said for her, sports has been a salve.

“This is my first experience being on the Invictus Games team and the atmosphere here at Naden [Athletic Centre] has been so exciting.”

The next Team Canada training camp is in May in Winnipeg.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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