Supporting our Mates in the 2023 Invictus Games

05 September 2023

Mates4Mates are cheering on Team Australia at the 2023 Invictus Games including our inspiring Mates chosen to compete.

The Invictus Games are taking place in Dusseldorf, Germany from 9 to 16 September 2023. The Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who have served their country, while also pulling together core Defence values of teamwork and camaraderie.  

Justin Donnelly and Ainsley Hooker are just some of the Mates representing Team Australia this year in their respective sports. 

The role of exercise in recovery 

Veteran and Team Australia competitor, Ainsley Hooker became a below-knee amputee after sustaining an ankle injury that led to 13 years of chronic pain, and a dying foot and ankle. 

Ainsley said that when going through rehabilitation, which included sessions with a Mates4Mates exercise physiologist (EP), she was asked to write down a goal to focus on achieving as part of her recovery. 

“I knew about the Invictus Games, and I had always wanted to give it a shot, so I used that time in my life to focus in on that,” Ainsley said. 

“When I joined Mates4Mates, my EP directed me toward wheelchair rugby, and I loved it. When I applied for the Games, I knew I wanted to compete in that and my training in the chair opened the opportunity to also join wheelchair basketball.” 

“Being selected, for me, was proof that I had survived my recovery, and since being selected for Team Australia I’ve seen and connected with a lot of other veterans with injuries of different levels,” Ainsley added. 

“It goes to prove that if you want to have a go at something, then you go for it. Don’t hold back.” 

Veteran and Team Australia competitor, Justin Donnelly has faced combat-related bombing and shooting injuries, PTSD and anxiety, as well as a motorcycle accident that left 60% of his body broken and three parts of his brain dead. 

Now, Justin will compete for Team Australia in the cycling, swimming, and wheelchair basketball events at the 2023 Invictus Games. 

“Participating in the Games is about proving to myself that I can do this, and using the opportunity to inspire others in similar situations and show them they can come back from injuries,” Justin said. 

“You have to recover; it’s going to happen at some rate but it’s up to you and the effort that you put in. Cycling was a goal for me to achieve, something to drive me through rehabilitation, and now I’m competing for the first time.” 

Support at Mates4Mates 

At Mates4Mates, we offer a range of rehabilitation services to help veterans and families find a way forward from service-related injuries, including clinical exercise interventions and mental health services

Mates4Mates Clinical Lead – Physical Recovery, Daniela Rossi explains engaging in sport can have both psychological and physical benefits, including: 

  • Improved mood and self-confidence 
  • Developing resilience 
  • Increased strength and mobility  
  • Reduced pain 

"Sport has proven to provide a positive team environment, leading to restoring and increasing camaraderie and a sense of belonging many veterans search for, as well as positively contributing to their physical, mental and social health and wellbeing,” Daniela said. 

About the Invictus Games 

Commencing on Saturday, 9 September until Saturday, 16 September, the Invictus Games is an international sporting event for wounded, injured, and ill service personnel. 

The Games promote the role of sports and physical activity for recovery, motivation, and rehabilitation for those who have been affected physically and mentally following traumatic events in the line of service. 

This year will be the sixth edition of the Games, with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex founding the Invictus Games in 2014. 

Participants will compete in 10 sports, including: 

  • Athletics 
  • Weightlifting 
  • Hand archery 
  • Indoor rowing 
  • JLR Driving Challenge 
  • Wheelchair basketball 
  • Wheelchair rugby 
  • Cycling 
  • Sitting volleyball 
  • Swimming 

To find out more, visit the Invictus Games website here.

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