The Invictus Games — the largest wounded warrior competition of the year — closed out Saturday to a rousing ceremony featuring stars such as Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams.
Britain’s Prince Harry, a veteran of service in Afghanistan, created the Paralympic-style games as a way to inspire soldiers toward recovery. About 550 competitors from 17 countries competed in 12 sports over the last week.
The seven days of athletic performances closed as Springsteen sang three songs, including his classic “Dancing in the Dark,” before joining Adams on “Cuts Like a Knife.”
Harry paid tribute to the athletes in his closing speech, saying, “Our world needs your dedication and passion like never before.”
“And you never know, this may just be the missing piece of the puzzle to help you regain that satisfaction of serving others once again,” he added.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden handed out participation medals to competitors on their way to the arena floor.
Team USA, represented by 90 warrior-athletes competing across a range of disciplines, won gold in wheelchair basketball.
Biden and his wife, Jill, attended the game to cheer on the wounded service members.
More than 550 wounded and injured service members from 17 nations competed in 12 sporting events including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball as they are cheered on by thousands of family members, friends and spectators in Toronto’s Distillery District, according to the Defense Department.
Army Spc. Stephanie Morris took home a gold medal in discus, a silver in shot put and a bronze in hand cycle in the women’s track and field competition, according the Defense Department.
Morris’ leg was amputated in 2016 as a result of injuries she sustained in Afghanistan in 2013. She credited adaptive sports as a critical part in her recovery.
“It doesn’t matter whether she wins or loses, Stephanie just likes to compete,” Stephanie’s mom, Relda Bates, said. “The games have actually helped Stephanie. She was always into sports. Stephanie was always a competitor so having the games, the Warrior Games and the Invictus Games, is something that benefits Stephanie.”
Former President Barrack Obama also attended the basketball game Friday, sitting court-side at Team USA’s wheelchair basketball game against France with the Bidens and Prince Harry.
Army Capt. Will Reynolds, who won bronze medals in the men’s 1,500-meter track and field and rugby competitions, served in the Army for six years as an infantry officer, according to the Defense Department. In 2004, he was injured by a remotely detonated improvised explosive device in Baghdad.
For Reynolds, the games stand as a testament to the families who stuck by their wounded relatives through treatment and recovery, he said.
“Invictus is a way for family members to see competitors like myself healthy again and excelling. It’s a pinnacle for our recovery and kind of a reward for the families sticking it out through the hard days, those sleepless nights in the hospital and for all those hard times,” Reynolds said. “This is a good celebration for them, too, going to the opening and closing ceremonies, attending the concerts — it’s just unbelievable.”
This was the third edition of the Invictus Games, which are to be held in Sydney, Australia, next year.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer