Comox 19 Wing members Cpl. Emilie Poulin, chief warrant officer (retired) Rock Ferland, Maj. (retired) Nick Holyome, and Sgt. (retired) Chris Zizek recently returned from representing Canada at the 2022 Invictus Games in Netherlands.
By all accounts, it was a week to remember.
The Invictus Games, founded by the Duke of Sussex, are an international sporting competition for ill and injured serving members and veterans. The mission of the Games is to honour the service members and veterans who are ill or injured, not necessarily related to their service, by using the power of rehabilitative sports to help them on their journey of recovery.
Team Canada consisted of 28 athletes in 2022, competing against close to 500 other athletes, representing 16 other countries.
Poulin competed in powerlifting and sitting volleyball. Ferland competed in cycling, wheelchair rugby, as well as track and field, while Holyome competed in indoor rowing and sitting volleyball.
Zizek competed in indoor rowing, swimming and seated volleyball.
“Wheelchair rugby is so much fun,” said Ferland. “I would like to join a team in my community after the Games. I also enjoyed cycling very much. I now use it as therapy to disconnect from the everyday life problems.”
“I’ve been discovering all the sports that our team is able to compete in,” said Holyome. “I’ve been having fun rowing and learning how to hit a volleyball while scooting around on my backside.”
Poulin said powerlifting was not something she would have considered before this opportunity.
“Powerlifting – I had no interest to do it for myself, but the Invictus gave me a reason to try and I love it,” she said. “I found a new strength.”
Zizek also discovered a new sport through his Invictus experience: indoor rowing.
“Rowing has been my new found love,” he said. “After having both hips replaced, I needed to find an activity that was low impact, but still a good workout. Rowing seemed to be a perfect fit. Since joining the team, I’ve competed at the United States Marine Corps trials and many virtual rowing competitions, including; Canadian, Australia and British indoor rowing championships. It’s been a blast!”
Holyome is a fierce advocate of recovery and rehabilitation through sport.
“I’m not as young, strong and fit as I used to be, but I have used this period to train and build myself up to my ‘new normal,’” he said.
Holyome encourages other ill or injured veterans to consider taking advantage of all the support systems they can.
“I didn’t realize how much support was truly available for CAF members that need some help,” he said. “I resisted for a long time and it made things worse. My advice is to reach out and talk to someone – call Soldier On, the CAF helpline or talk to a trusted person in the medical system. That first step is the hardest, but I’m proof that it is hugely beneficial.”
“Reach out, reach out and reach out,” added Ferland. “You are not alone, we are all going through struggles and sharing with other will only make your feel better.”
According to Ferland, it requires constant effort to be able to accept your ‘new self’ after an injury and significant life event.
“My teammates gave me the energy to keep going forward. They also made me realized to not take everything for granted.”
Canada has been awarded the 2025 Invictus Games, to be co-hosted by Vancouver and Whistler.
–With files from Canadian Armed Forces