Team Canada’s training for the 2016 Invictus Games recently got underway at Scarborough’s Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC).
The team came together for the first time for a five-day training camp at TPASC, with Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO).
Athletes completed physical testing earlier this month, then spent the next four days training in their specific sports.
“Training was great, fantastic,” said Team Canada captain Bruno Guévremont following the camp. “The team is amazing, everybody’s pushing real hard.”
The camp was hosted by Soldier On, in partnership with the True Patriot Love Foundation.
Twenty-five men and five women will represent Canada in Orlando, Florida, at the 2016 Invictus Games. The Games take place from May 8 to 12 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.
This will be the second installment of the Invictus Games, which began in 2014 in London, England. The international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick Armed Forces members and veterans was founded by Prince Harry. The prince, a military man himself, was inspired by an event held in the United States called the Warrior Games.
Invictus means unconquered. It represents the unfailing spirit of the wounded warriors competing. The Games celebrates the contributions and efforts of Armed Forces members, while highlighting and harnessing the power sport has to support mental and physical recovery and rehabilitation, according to the website.
Athletes will compete in 10 individual and team sports at the 2016 Games — archery, swimming, powerlifting, indoor rowing, road cycling, sitting volleyball, track and field, wheelchair basketball, rugby and tennis. Hundreds of athletes from 15 invited nations will compete for medals at the event, while also supporting and applauding each other’s performances.
This will be the first time participating in the Games for Guévremont, who will compete in rowing and sitting volleyball. The 42-year-old retired navy diver lives in Victoria, B.C. He completed two tours in Afghanistan, serving out of Victoria, B.C. and Petawawa, Ont.
“It’s a great honour to be a part of Team Canada, and being asked to represent our country at the Invictus Games,” he said.
“It’s very exciting. It’s helping a lot of vets get back into having a purpose, having a reason to get back into physical fitness and performing at high levels.”
At the inaugural Invictus Games in London, England, in 2014, Team Canada took home two silver medals in archery and swimming. The team is hoping to add to its medal total this year, but its main goal is to support each other’s transition from military to civilian life.
“The first and foremost goal is to make sure that the athletes have an incredible experience that will move their healing and transition forward, to get better, and for their well-being and being able to carry on in life after the military,” Guévremont said. “And then, obviously, the second goal is to win medals.”
He noted the team’s athletes are already close to beating recorded times from the last Games. Members will continue to train individually, or with fellow athletes from their areas if possible, before returning to TPASC for another camp in March.
After that, they will continue training at home before coming together again in Ottawa May 1. The athletes will participate in a staging camp in Ottawa, then fly as a team from the nation’s capital to Orlando on May 4.
The team is looking forward to returning to TPASC to train with CSIO, which Guévremont said he thinks will give Canada an advantage at the Games.
“We have a very high level of training, because of the coaches that volunteered, elite class coaches, that volunteered to train us in this amazing facility,” he said. “This is world class. This is the best facilities I’ve ever seen.”
Members communicated online through a Facebook group before meeting for the first time at the training camp. Guévremont said it was great to come together as a team, noting everyone quickly bonded.
The athletes were joking around and clearly having a good time with each other when they met with The Scarborough Mirror at the end of their camp. There were many jokes about Justin Bieber and adopting his song “Sorry” as the team’s theme song, since Canadians are known for our frequent use of the word.
“Team Canada are Beliebers. We’ve been practicing our dance for the Justin Bieber ‘Sorry’ song. It’s going very well, we’ll be ready for the second camp,” joked Guévremont.
“We’re actually looking forward to having Justin Bieber join us at the next training camp, and coming to support the athletes, because we’ve all caught the Bieber fever and we’re all Beliebers.”
He said the Canadian athletes will use their team spirit as motivation in Orlando, along with their determination to deliver their best performances for Canada. The team is already well on its way to achieving its goals, and has a secret weapon in its arsenal.
“We feel very confident,” he said, adding with a smile, “We’ve got something that other countries don’t have — Bieber fever.”
Team Canada is supported by the True Patriot Love Foundation. Visit www.truepatriotlove.com for more information about the foundation, including how to donate. Visit www.invictusgames2016.org for more about the Invictus Games, including how to donate.
A legacy facility from the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, TPASC is at 875 Morningside Ave., at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. It is home to CSIO, part of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, which offers a full range of training and services for high performance athletes and coaches at the facility. Recreational programs and fitness memberships are also offered, visit www.tpasc.ca for more information about TPASC.