Olympic gold medallists join Prince Harry in exhibition wheelchair rugby match, while Joe Townsend is among track and field athletes to impress at inaugural Games
Kelly Holmes and Denise Lewis returned to competitive action but this time on a court instead of the track and field as they took part in an exhibition wheelchair rugby match alongside Prince Harry at the Invictus Games.
Athletics was the first of the nine sports contested by around 400 athletes from 14 nations over four days at the inaugural event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women which was championed by Prince Harry who was inspired after a visit to the Warrior Games in the US.
Joe Townsend was among the stand-out performers when track and field action got the Games underway at Lee Valley, the day before other stars of the sport joined the likes of Prince Harry and rugby greats Sir Clive Woodward and Jonny Wilkinson for the Jaguar Land Rover exhibition wheelchair rugby match.
Former Royal Marine Townsend stormed to four victories on the track, proving his dominance in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1500m. Having lost both legs in a blast in Afghanistan in 2008, Townsend is now part of the Lottery-funded British para-triathlon squad and won bronze at this year’s European Championships.
Alex Tate (pictured below), a former private who lost his left leg in Afghanistan in 2012, was also among the winners as he claimed victory in the IT1 100m for single or double below the knee amputees.
“It’s a very big deal,” he said. “When I first got injured was around the time the Paralympics were going on. I thought I’d want to give it a go but I never saw myself competing in something like this within two years. I thought it’d be a longer road than this, so it’s incredible.”
Full athletics results can be found here.
Following the athletics action, attention turned to the other Invictus Games venues across London, with wheelchair rugby having been held at the Copper Box.
Ahead of the final between Great Britain and the USA, Team Invictus featuring the likes of Prince Harry, Zara Tindall and Great Britain pro James Roberts went up against Team Endeavour with a line up including Holmes, Lewis and former England rugby captain Mike Tindall.
Team Invictus, managed by Wilkinson, took a 5-3 lead into the break and although Holmes was among those to add to Team Endeavour’s tally it wasn’t enough and Team Invictus sealed an 8-6 victory.
“To play that game was brilliant,” said Holmes. “We enjoyed it and we were all incredibly honoured to be a part of it. As an athlete it was really nice to have that buzz again.
“It’s a great concept,” added the 2004 Olympic 800m and 1500m champion, who herself served in the forces for nearly 10 years. “Having something like this, high-level sport, but more importantly really recognising and celebrating all of those servicemen and women that have served their county but have unfortunately come back injured.”
Following the exhibition match, the professionals returned to the court where Great Britain won the gold medal match, 13-12.
» For more on the Invictus Games see invictusgames.org