Invictus Games: the competition will be great, but watch out for the Americans!

British shot put competitor Mary Wilson says to beware of the US Marines as Prince Harry's Games begin

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British Armed Forces athletics field captain Mary Wilson can’t wait to swing into action in Prince Harry’s Invictus Games, but warned that the American Marines will be out to upset the party.

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Wilson, who continued to serve with the British Army until 2012 despite ripping off her bicep muscle during a riding accident with the Royal Horse Artillery, said that the Games for injured servicemen and women is “history in the making”.

“This is the first time that serving soldiers and veterans have competed against each other, and having 13 countries of like-minded people who have been injured, lost limbs or had illness, it will be massive,” Wilson said.

Over 400 injured servicemen and women will take part in the Games, and Wilson said that even though the competition will a proud moment for her, any military challenge is likely to get “quite heated”.

“We don’t know what most of the countries are like, but going for the Warrior Games last year the US Marines were especially competitive. They weren’t out to enjoy themselves, they were out to win and that was it,” Wilson said.

“It was a real shame, because that’s not what it’s all about. The rest of the Americans, the Navy, the Coastguard, the Army, they were competitive but they had fun as well. The Marines though were just mad! Keep an eye out for them.”

Wilson, 50, served with Queen Alexandria’s Royal Army Nursing Core for 20 years before being medically discharged in 2012. She served in Afghanistan where she was in command of the mental health team looking after British soldiers serving on the front line, despite constantly dealing with an injury that eventually forced her to leave the Armed Forces.

“In 2000 I was in a horse riding accident with the Royal Horse Artillery,” she explained. “I took a course and was thrown from a horse against a wall. I broke my cheekbone, my toes, and had my bicep muscle ripped off. Two operations later, it wasn’t getting any better. I was then diagnosed with MS in 2004. I continually tried to keep as fit as possible, but in 2012 they changed the rules and unfortunately I was discharged.”

The Invictus Games, however, has made her feel part of a team once again: “Even though I’m out of the forces, I still have the mentality that we’ll always be there for each other. Even though most of us didn’t know each other when we arrived, it’s just like a jigsaw fitting together. It’s the unspoken rule: you look after each other, you’re friends with each other, and you just get on with it. Male, female, we’re always shouting for each other, telling each other to get a move on, to push harder. The adrenaline rush is brilliant.”

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Highlights of the first day of Invictus Games competition start tonight at 7pm on BBC2. The channel will also show highlights on Friday 12 September, before the final two days are broadcast live on BBC1 this Saturday and Sunday from 1pm.