By Tim Binning
Photo By Courtney Verrill
Frequent readers of LivAbility magazine may recall our profile on local athlete Gabby Graves-Wake earlier this year. That article touched on Gabby’s athletic endeavors, including being selected to her second Invictus Games to be held in the beautiful city of Toronto.
Inspired by a visit to the Warrior Games in 2013, Prince Harry of Great Britain, who served as an officer in the British army for ten years, founded the Invictus Games as the only international competition for wounded, injured and sick service members. ‘Invictus’ means unconquerable, and defines the attitude of these soldiers. The Invictus Games has grown into a worldwide movement, helping motivate and inspire these former soldiers to move on and not be defined by their injuries. The first Games were held in London in 2014 with 400 athletes from 13 nations and have grown to 550 athletes from 17 nations for the Toronto games. The 2018 Games are already set to be held in Sydney, Australia.
I first met Gabby in July 2016 at a track clinic in Los Angeles that my son Stephen and I were helping run. In March 2017, she moved home to Phoenix and joined our Arizona Disabled Sports track program. It was clear right away that she was going to be a valuable member of our team. She was friendly, upbeat and a great role model for our younger athletes. As the end of the season approached, Gabby asked Stephen and I to continue to train her for the Invictus Games, and we were excited to do so. She explained that she did not medal in any track events in 2016 and her goal was to win a medal for the USA in at least one of her track events this year.
Due to her hard work and persistence, Gabby had a successful Games. Not only did she achieve her goal of a medal in track, she medaled in every track and field event earning two silver and four bronze medals. And for good measure, she also earned a bronze medal in cycling. As Gabby will readily explain, she did achieve her goals but the games really aren’t about the medals won. The games are about supporting your fellow recovering soldiers as they work to overcome their issues and strive to better their circumstances.
Each Games competitor is encouraged to invite two people to join them on the trip to share the experience. Gabby was kind enough to honor Stephen and I with an invitation to be her ‘Family and Friend’ nominees. Although she tried to prepare us for Invictus, the Games have to be experienced to be fully understood. We do not have a military background in our family, so we do not understand the emotional bond that military members share, particularly soldiers who have been injured. We have been to more adaptive sports events than we can count, and each athlete is usually about the competition and winning medals. At Invictus, however, the spirit of camaraderie, support and cheering for your competitors is as important as winning.
Gabby, being a Marine, is not satisfied with her results from this year. She is already looking forward to striving for gold in Sydney, and we will be there to push, support and cheer for her along the way.
Ability360 proudly supports our military service members by offering numerous programs for veterans, currently serving military and their families where we embrace the spirit of Invictus (Latin for “unconquered”) every day.
The Invictus Games, held this year in Toronto, Sept. 23-30, are an international Paralympic-caliber event, envisioned by Prince Harry of Wales, in which disabled armed services personnel and veterans from 16 countries participate.
We congratulate Arizona’s own, retired Marine Sgt. Gabby Graves-Wake for her impressive showing in multiple events. This Paralympic athlete is training for Women’s Sled Hockey (2018), Swimming and Track & Field (2020).
Tim Binning is proud to be the wheelchair track coach for Arizona Disabled Sports, and is driven to provide the opportunity to participate in adaptive sports to any athlete who desires it. Tim is an advocate for the inclusion of adaptive track at the high school level and is also working to start an adaptive track club at ASU.