It’s a pretty chilly morning. However, at 8 am, Sebastian continued to race with two physiotherapists at the Center National Desports de La Defense (CNSD) athletics stadium. We are in the heart of the forest of Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne), south of Paris, where this huge military sports facility is located. A former gendarmerie currently assigned to a territorial center for social behavior in Bordeaux saw a change in his life in 2001: “I had a stroke during training. I was 21 years old.”
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Sebastian still suffers from paralysis of parts of his body and sports were the way he got back on track: “I returned to athletics in 2003, two years after the accident. It was my passion and I didn’t want to stay a vegetable, even if it wasn’t the right term, but as a person anyway. There wasn’t. I started training again. Gradually and since then I haven’t stopped.“He is one of the 14 French soldiers participating in the 5th Invictus Games, a type of Olympic Games for soldiers injured in the operation. The tournament will be held in the Netherlands from April 16th to 22nd. Will be held in Hague.
A little further away, clearing has an archery range with a target 18 meters away. The shooter is Frank. He holds the bow with his right hand and stretches the strings with his mouth thanks to the tip. This Nancy-based Air Force mechanic is a retired soldier after being seriously injured in 2015 during a NATO exercise at the Albacete Air Force Base in Spain. “There is a Greek F16 that crashed on the tarmac. He remembers. He came to hit us. Eleven people were killed, including nine French, and five were seriously injured from Nancy base. We were hit by planes, debris and explosions. I received everything. It stripped off my safety boots, broke my ankle, and tore my fingers. “
Frank still has the aftermath of this terrible day. Standing up is a pain for him, his left hand remains frozen, his shoulders are painful, and he wears a carbon shell to protect his ankles. His military commitment was passion. Instead, he had to slowly rebuild himself. For the fathers of these two daughters, this participation in Invictus Games is an important step in this process. “It’s a goal and a result.”
“We are never 100% reconstructed. It’s a big step in the sporting reconstruction that takes place. Three-quarters of the work is done.”Frank, a former soldier injured
Frank and Sebastian aren’t the only ones who have great expectations for this contest, created by Prince Harry in 2014. Among the 14 soldiers dispatched from the French Army is the Corporal of the 1st Class Laurent of the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment (RPIMA) in Carcassonne. He participated in 23 overseas projects in Africa and Afghanistan before a serious head injury. This French team has, so to speak, amputated from his right foot and Master Corporal Thomas, who is now dreaming of participating in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
In The Hague’s vast Zuiderpack, athletes compete in athletics, rowing, cycling, swimming and wheelchair rugby. Former soldier who lost his career in France or abroad (Mali, Afghanistan, or Central African Republic). “For them, it’s another way to represent their country.” Summarizes Captain Erwan Lebrun, who leads the reconstruction system through military sports. Invictus Games will bring together 17 countries by April 22nd as the 5th edition.