Italy, U.K. String Together Major Cycling Wins - Invictus Games 2016 - Orlando - May 8 - 12 - ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Italy, U.K. String Together Major Cycling Wins

160509-F-WU507-016: A Team US wounded warrior cyclist races in the cycling finals at the 2016 Invictus Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Fla., May 9, 2016. The 2016 Invictus Games officially kicked off with the ceremony May 8, and 15 nations will compete through May 12 in multiple adaptive sports events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace/RELEASED)

Match Recap: Cycling

Road cycling at Invictus Games Orlando 2016, presented by Jaguar Land Rover, kicked-off in extraordinary fashion as the world’s best veteran and active duty cyclists took to the track. Fans crowded around the starting line to cheer on the competitors, with the audience growing as the time trials and criterium rolled on.

The races turned out to be nail-biters across the board, but none more so than the final criterium. The UK was set to grab all three medals, but a popped tire for the first place cyclist on the homestretch caused a wreck, and Canada was able to sneak in for a bronze.

Interestingly enough, the more impressive note from the events were not the results themselves, but the attitudes of the fans and competitors, as people from various nations rooted on all competitors, not just those wearing the same colors. No competitor received bigger cheers than the U.S. Captain, Will Reynolds. Reynolds admitted he could’ve done better, but knew that there was nothing more emotional than donning the stars and stripes for the competition.

“It’s amazing to wear the colors and represent the team again, represent the country again,” said Reynolds. “To be the captain amongst the hundreds of others who can do the role from the military is incredibly humbling as well.”

Like Reynolds, many of the competitors expressed how adaptive sports have shaped their journey from wounded to unconquered. For the UK’s Paul Vice, who participated in the London Invictus Games in 2014 with two legs, getting back on the bike after an amputation of one of those showed his hard work paying off mightily.

“I set goals in my recovery to getting to being as mobile as I can, and I’m just smashing those goals out of the water,” said Vice. “As every soldier knows, when you get injured, you can get into a very dark place for a bit. [Adaptive sports] has been a massive eye opener for me and changed my life.”

Italy’s Simone Careddu echoed Vice’s sentiments, highlighting the massive emotional impact of competing in these Games. Careddu didn’t receive a medal, but his confidence was not shaken whatsoever, and maintained his self-confidence after he left his bike.

“[Adaptive] sports is the absolute best for recovery,” said Careddu, “for the mind, for the body, for the heart, for everything.”

More than anything, the competitors voiced their appreciation of the opportunity to show their progress in recovery through sport. After finishing his first race ever, Australia’s Peter Rutland, who carries a stuffed bunny rabbit during the races for his kids, sounded completely exhausted and thankful at the same time.

“[The Games] mean a lot, considering a little while ago I couldn’t event walk,” said Rutland. “I love the country that I’m a part of and I’ve always said Australia is the greatest country in the world. It’s hard to describe actually.”

Rutland’s message speaks directly to the passion of the competitors, who give their all in a new type of battlefield. Cyclists like The Netherlands’s Roelof Burghoorn know that a second chance to represent one’s homeland at the Games is a feeling like no other.

“When you become a handicapped person, you feel your life’s over,” said Burghoorn post-race. “With adaptive sports, you realize it’s not over and you can do a lot of things, but you must try.”

After the races wrapped up, New Zealand’s Amy Baynes summed up the emotions of all the competitors with a single motto for all the recovering military members to live by every day.

“I am strong!” Baynes exclaimed.

Official results are located here.


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