Jules: I’m struggling with verbalising today but will try to get my words together. Today I got to swim as a swimmer competing in an international competition. I couldn’t swim freestyle at all prior to 10 months ago. I thought I could swim a little breast stroke, but then I saw it done, and found I was not actually doing it at all! I had never managed to learn but Coach Ray never gave up on me. I was so panicked by putting my face continually in the water. I just had so much to overcome, I really did not think I would make it and at times I thought the training was just too hard. I thought about giving it up. I was so afraid I would embarrass us.
How can I verbalise the gratitude I feel for the gift of finally learning to swim? Ray never gave up, he never got frustrated when I couldn’t get it, and there were lots of those days. On this Invictus journey, swimming has played a huge part. It is where I struggled the most and was most discouraged. But… I learned that I can push through when I am afraid. I learned to give myself the grace I can give others when I flounder and feel like I have failed. I learned to find my inner strength. I learned so much about myself through this training.
Today I qualified for the finals for both freestyle and breast stroke. I am not sure what to say other than I am “blown away” by this. All of this was so unexpected. Tomorrow with be our second last day here and I am very much looking forward to seeing my family as I miss them so very much. What I will take away, however, will last the rest of my life. I know I will continue, and I want to be stronger in every way. We say in New Zealand “kia kaha” or stand strong. With the right support you can do anything. Your family, your coach, your team, they all make it happen. You just need to get one small victory, the rest will come. From one tired “swimmer” tomorrow is going to b epic!
Nicki: Today was Archery all day and I can tell you that I am so exhausted, I can not think straight. My Novice Recurve Women’s event started off well, with us all been promoted to the quarter play offs; gotta love that. I was playing a Canadian lady, Elizabeth, who kicked my butt in all ends, only three were needed to get the 6 points she required. I was a bit upset with myself, mainly because I had let myself, the team and my Dunedin Club down, a few tears of frustration (if you know me and my head injury, you know this is normal, especially if tired; just let me process it, I will be alright). But to put a positive spin on things, I got two tens in the last end but my third arrow was off and I got a 4 = 24 and Elizabeth only got 25; with no 10’s. Elizabeth is also shooting off for Gold tomorrow against her team mate, Mel. You could say I was taken out by a medal winner, (which colour yet, is unknown at the time of writing). Whoop, whoop.
Just when I thought it was all over and I was taking my equipment back, I was reminded of the team events. Oh right, more shooting. This was a funny event: all three of you are on the line in the order that you shoot. You have a time limit to shoot two arrows each (two minutes for the whole team) and when you have shot your two arrows you call done and put your arm up. The next in line then takes their turn, you are not allowed to touch your arrows till it is your turn and you must all be done within the two minutes. In the first round, we shot against The USA and won. It went down to a one arrow shoot out (one arrow each) because the score was tied – all three Kiwi’s hit Gold and we won. I was wrapped, I had won a match with some help from my team mates and was ready to pack up my gear and head ‘home’, again. Yeah – nah, next match was against the Ukrainians and we got beaten three games to nil, sorry guys but I was well out of my class there. Oh well, now I can take my gear back and hand it in; been a full on three days but glad I did it. Hang on, what do you mean I am shooting for a bronze medal tomorrow in the team event? You have got to be kidding me, against the UK team. Holly c…… Archery in the morning and swimming in the evening. Great way to finish the Invictus Games – Chur. ONWARDS AND UPWARDS.
Coach Ray: What a day it woke like any other with a trip down to the food hall, 3 stories underground. A quick breakfast, touch base with some athletes and then get to the management meeting.
The swim programme started at 11am but that meant being in the lobby at 8:45 to get there early enough. I had a swimmer with a brachial plexus injury that requires strapping but that is against paralympic rules for swimming, but this isn’t the paralympics but we still needed to get it scrutinised to make sure it wasn’t going to give him an unfair advantage. The friendly technical offical gave it the green light (which I wasn’t sure she would).
Our swimmers started their warm up and got ready for the first events. I had all four of my swimmers in the first 30 minutes of the programme with both Jules and Dan doing another event later on. I caught up with both the Dutch swimmers Morton and Martin from the other day, as well as an Aussie girl I met at the rowing, who is marrying a Kiwi guy in Nelson.
Jules was first up and as she had only learned to swim a few months ago I had no expectation of what she would achieve. She was very nervous and wanted me to be with her as she went out to the blocks. This is run like a top level competition, all the competitors get announced and step forward and wave to their supporters, the details got broadcast on three live feeds. Just like the Olympics. It is a pretty big deal. As she was called into the marshalling area, she got talking with some of the other girls, they soon worked out that they were all as nervous as each other and that they all are very novice swimmers and they had all learned to dive into the pool in the last two weeks. I bet that was a big relief not just for Jules but also the others as well to find out they are all in the same boat.
Jules dive might not have been perfect but her goggles stayed on and she swum her heart out to record a PB, with the Kiwi supports cheering her on.
Next up was Craig, seeing him finish with a grin ear to ear and knowing he had just nailed a PB was great to see. The very next heat was Steve, I helped him transfer out of his wheelchair. He has been deliberating about starting by sitting on the blocks or on the edge of the pool. Having decided on the edge of the pool, he told me as we went out that he was going to get on the blocks. Although he dislodged his googles with his entry he still swam like a demon for a PB. Then came Dan, he flew through the water and just like the other Kiwi’s he PBed as well.
With only Jules and Dan left with another event I got a little bit of a break but spent some time sorting meal vouchers for the athletes that I didn’t get a chance to grab a bite to eat before Jule’s Breast Stroke heat. Whilst I was sorting things I saw the results posted and checked to see how close Dan had got to making the final. They were listing two alternates in case there was a scratching and Dan had finished 11th, missing out on an alternate slot by one place. Being the nosey person I am, I checked the results of the other swimmers, and was ecstatic to see that Jules had qualified 8th. Jules wasn’t quite mentally prepared for this news when I told her, but she handled it well.
She was swimming with basically the same girls from the freestyle heat for her breast stroke heat. They all bonded well in the marshalling area and I was excited for them all as they swam down and recorded some good times. Although the Aussie girl who won the previous heat was faster than them all, they were all pretty fast and I thought that Jules was fast enough to get through to the final along with her new American and Aussie friends. When the results got announced this was the case. The girls were kind of looking forward to doing the relay and then having the night off. most of them have competed in a range of events all week long, from athletics to rowing and are pretty tired and sore.
After lunch Dan came out and competed in the ISD 100m Freestyle despite this being a very competitive event with 37 swimmers and three of them going under 60 seconds, Dan still managed to finish in 9th place and is the first alternate. This could potentially see him getting into the finals if someone scratches from their race.
After we got back form the pool, I went to the hotel pool and had a nice swim of 2,500 yards and then went for a wander up to the 147th floor of the CN Tower. Seeing all these athletes step out of their comfort zone is inspiring to see so I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and even walked out over the glass floor!!!