The second Invictus Games began in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, May 8.
Founded by Prince Harry, the biennial event brings together active duty and veteran military service members with visible and invisible injuries to compete in 10 different sports.
The games debuted in London in 2014, and this year, more than 500 athletes from 15 different countries, along with thousands of fans and family members converged in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the five-day event.
Check out these 18 incredible images from Orlando as the Invictus Games get underway.
1. The opening ceremonies were a beautiful celebration of courage and competition.
2. There were presentations from the U.S. military, including the U.S. Silent Drill Platoon, which performs exercises in absolute silence to showcase the discipline and professionalism of the Marine Corps.
3. Invictus Games founder and veteran Prince Harry spoke to the crowd of athletes, families, and fans.
“I’m a long way from London tonight…” the prince said, “…but when I look out, I see so many familiar faces, servicemen and women, their friends and their families, and all of the people who got them here. I feel like I’m at home.”
4. All 15 teams entered the arena to a roaring crowd.
And just like the Olympics, there are matching uniforms, flags, and fanfare for the occasion.
5. That’s because in addition to veteran-athletes, the complex was filled with families, friends, and fans.
Will Reynolds, captain of the American Invictus Team, was joined by his wife and daughters.
6. But soon it was time to compete. Check out this fierce competitor’s Wonder Woman prosthetic at a sitting volleyball match.
7. There was plenty of excitement in the air as Team USA entered the Field House to compete in the rowing finals.
8. To allow the athletes to compete at their highest level, there are adaptations and modifications to some of the events and equipment.
Powerlifter Christine Gauthier of Canada uses a wheelchair for mobility, but while she competes, she is secured to the weight bench.
8. Cyclists prepare to speed down the course on hand bikes.
9. Archer Martin Clapton from the United Kingdom holds the arrow in his teeth while aiming at the target.
10. And these competitors put it all on the line during the indoor rowing finals.
11. Family members and fans from around the world have converged on Orlando to celebrate their favorite heroes.
12. Even if they only get a glimpse of the competitors before they dash off.
13. There are 10 competitive events at the games, including sitting volleyball, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, track and field, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis.
14. Each event requires some serious strength, along with hours of practice, dedication, and skill…
15. …things these veterans and active duty service members have no shortage of.
16. For every point, win, or goal, the fans go wild!
17. Because at the end of the day, this is bigger than a sporting event.
Adaptive sports provide numerous benefits for veterans with disabilities, including decreased stress, increased independence, a reduced dependence on pain and depression medications, and even higher achievement in employment and education.
18. It’s a celebration of teamwork, fortitude, and second chances.
Invictus is Latin for “unconquered,” and these athletes are just that.
The games are only a few days long, but the impact they have on the competitors, families, and fans lasts much longer.
Events like these are a reminder of the resilience these veterans and their families possess.
Coming back from war with injuries and illnesses isn’t easy, but opportunities to compete for and represent their home nations can be a light in the shadow of recovery for these athletes and their brothers and sisters in arms.
Thumbnail photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Invictus Games.
The games continue through May 12. You can watch many of the events on the ESPN family of networks.