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Rutland veteran Rachel Williamson named as captain of the 2020 Invictus Games

Rachel Williamson, of Rutland, has been named as captain of Team UK at the 2020 Invictus Games.

Rachel joins her teammates for the first time at the Honourable Artillery Company in London today (Tuesday, October 29). The athletes, 89 per cent of whom have never taken part in an Invictus Games before, will now undergo training camps delivered by Help for Heroes to ensure they are best prepared for the international sporting competition next year.

Rachel is a former physical training instructor and medic in the RAF who was medically discharged after an incident playing rugby. It left Rachel with no function in her right arm and a severe tremor. She competed in the 2018 games.

Rachel Williamson competes in the rowing at the Invictus Games 2018 (20308579)
Rachel Williamson competes in the rowing at the Invictus Games 2018 (20308579)

She said: “I kept thinking I was worthless; I was a failure and had let everyone down. Being introduced to Help for Heroes and being selected for the Invictus Games in 2018 came at a perfect time for me. I met people who are going through the same things and we’ve all ended looking out for each other.

“So far, my recovery journey has taken me from rock bottom to laying down a new foundation. This year I aim to build the new me and take the final step to where I want to be. I’ve accepted my injury; learnt I can let my emotions go and not be embarrassed or afraid about asking for help. I couldn’t have done that without the support of Help for Heroes this last year. I can smile again."

Rachel, who was born in Derbyshire, brought home two gold medals, three silver and one bronze medals from the 2018 Invictus Games in swimming and rowing. That experience will stand in her good stead to mentor those new to the Invictus Games in 2020.

Rachel Williamson (20308573)
Rachel Williamson (20308573)

“Now it’s time I raise the bar by trying new sports, being positive and happier with less excuses. I will support my fellow athletes by encouraging and providing advice. This will give me a new outlook on life and a new way of improving my self-esteem; that I can be there for others without feeling like a burden myself”.

More than 350 military personnel and veterans trialled nine sports for one of the 65 places available on Team UK. The rigorous selection process was based on the benefit the Invictus Games will give an individual as part of their recovery, combined with performance and commitment to training.

The team will compete in nine sports: athletics, archery, wheelchair basketball, cycling, powerlifting, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby, swimming and sitting volleyball. They will continue to train from now until May in various locations across the country as part of Help for Heroes’ extensive sports recovery programme and role to train and develop the team.

Rachel, who now works at Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough, will be taking part in athletics, rowing and swimming:

“The Invictus Games offers an amazing opportunity through sport for servicemen and women to regain that sense of pride which can be lost following the onset of mental or physical disabilities. Sport empowers us to refocus our attention on what we can do, rather than what we can’t.

Rachel Williamson meets David Beckham at the Invictus Games 2018 (20308576)
Rachel Williamson meets David Beckham at the Invictus Games 2018 (20308576)

“Being selected as part of Team UK in 2018 was a life changing moment and, along with the rest of the team, I will enjoy once again being able to represent my country. Now to be selected as Team UK Captain is truly an honour and I feel immensely proud to be given this opportunity.”

Rachel's vice-captain will be David Morris from Sleaford.

Julian North, recovery manager East, said: “The 65 men and women selected to represent Team UK will not only gain a personal recovery benefit from taking part in the games but they will hopefully inspire others suffering with life-changing injuries or illnesses that anything is possible.

“Our competitors are proudly serving their country again and showing that they will not let their injury or illness define them. We are especially proud of the fact that 89 per cent of Team UK have never competed in the Invictus Games before. The legacy of the Games is strong, and they are providing a gateway for more wounded veterans and service personnel to benefit from the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery programme."

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