Yvonne Lewis Langlois
“Invictus.” The word itself is powerful. It is Latin, meaning “unconquerable.” It is often associated with the poem of the same name; the poet, William Ernest Henley, battling tuberculosis from the age of 12, had one leg amputated because of the onset of arthritis. Two lines from his poem stand out: “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul” – words which describe simply what these Games are all about.
“The Invictus Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women,” states the Invictus Games Foundation.
The Games were founded by Prince Harry, after he visited the Warrior Games in the U.S. in 2013. He witnessed how sport and competition can promote healing in physically and psychologically challenged veterans and serving armed forces personnel.
The first Invictus Games were held in September 2014 at Queen Elizabeth Park in London, the United Kingdom. The second event was hosted in 2016 by Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, and the third took place in Toronto, Ontario in 2017. The Games that were scheduled for 2020 were postponed because of the pandemic; they have been rescheduled to take place in The Hague, the Netherlands, from April 16 to 22, 2022.
The games include 10 adaptive sports which are: cycling, archery, athletics, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, indoor rowing, powerlifting, volleyball, swimming, and the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge which tests navigational and teamwork skills as drivers pilot obstacles on a course to a specified location.
Team Canada will bring 32 competitors to the Hague in 2022. Darrell Ling, a former resident of Howick, will be one of them. “I was surprised to be chosen for the team,” he says. Ling was brought up in the Valley. Although he was born in Nova Scotia, he moved to Quebec with his family when he was a baby. He attended Howick Elementary School and then Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR), from which he graduated in 1981.
He returned to the Maritimes to join the Navy as a marine electrician and served in four NATO exercises. He participated in the military response to the Swissair flight 111 crash in 1998 and to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Experiencing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Ling struggled for many years. “I was in a dark place,” he says.
He was able to get help from VETS Canada (Veterans Emergency Transitions Service). “I have all the help from Veteran’s Affairs to deal with my past trauma” he says. Ling is grateful to be a part of the Soldier On program, which has been instrumental in supporting him while he made the move from active duty to civilian life. Since its launch in 2007, Soldier On has assisted almost 6000 members in making that huge transition.
At the Invictus Games, Ling will compete in archery, sit-down rowing, and wheelchair basketball for ambulatory athletes. This basketball team includes players who have physical disabilities and some, like Ling, who do not. Catherine McFarlane Dunn, who was Ling’s teacher at Howick Elementary, explains: “He knew the game well, having played at school, but adapting it to a wheelchair – [while using the] same ball size, same net height – was a challenge.” She adds, “Competitors must throw or bounce the ball after every two pushes of the wheels on the chair.”
Dunn is close to her former student. Ling reached out to her to share his enthusiasm at being one of 17 veterans that were selected for Team Canada for the upcoming games.
Darrell Ling is working hard to represent Canada at the Invictus Games, and he appreciates the opportunity and help he has been given to restore his self-confidence and to connect with other veterans. “There is one thing I have learned: to reach out for help. We learn from each other, and we are not alone.”