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The 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando came to an end earlier tonight at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World and Prince Harry delivered the perfect speech to end a magnificent and emotional week for all competitors, families and friends.
Prince Harry hailed an ‘extraordinary’ Invictus Games at the closing ceremony, which also featured performances from Jordan Smith, Vetted, Phillip Phillips, Rachel Platten, Rascal Flatts and Flo Rida as well as a veteran’s band and a speech from Second Lady, Dr Jill Biden.
“This year’s Games have been extraordinary and have showcased fantastic sportsmanship, friendship and the very best of human spirit,” said Harry. “I would like to congratulate every single competitor for participating and representing their nation. We have all been moved by your indefatigable spirit and drive to succeed over the last four days and for that we applaud you.”
He added: “Tonight we celebrate your achievements and also thank and honor your dedicated families, friends and caregivers who have supported you on your journey.”
Harry also made an early appearance on stage, handing out commemorative medals to members of Team GB as they processed past. Athletes from other nations, including the USA, were also given participant medallions during the ceremony.
Awards were then given to athletes deemed to have done exceptionally well, with the Land Rover Above and Beyond Award, handed out to the most inspiring athletes. The award was presented by John Cena and was presented to the popular Georgia’s sitting volleyball team who had to cover the costs of their trip to Florida themselves and had no coach. Despite that, they managed to win a bronze medal beating the Netherlands in the 3rd place match on Tuesday night.
During his closing speech, Harry named-dropped US athletes Sarah Rudder, 33, a 9/11 survivor who won four golds and three silvers at the games, and swimmer Elizabeth Marks, 25, who donated her gold medal from the 100-meter freestyle swim back to the hospital that saved her life, Papworth Hospital in London.
“What is the force that drives Elizabeth Marks to return to these games after nearly dying two years ago, to compete now, at the highest level, in a sport that renders her blind and faint? Invictus!” exclaimed Harry.
Of Rudder, who took home the Jaguar Award for Exceptional Performance after winning seven medals, he said: “Why did the 9/11 hero, Sarah Rudder, pick herself up when she fell, just meters from the finish line, and push on for a silver medal and into the embrace of her French rival? Invictus!”
“You are all Invictus. You are now ambassadors for the spirit of these games. Spread the word. Never stop fighting. And do all you can to lift up everyone around you. I know by your nature you all want to win,” he continued before the packed crowd at Champion Stadium.
“But these games are so much more than that – Invictus is so much more than that. What could explain the remarkable sportsmanship of Mark Urquart in sacrificing gold on the track to push Stephen Simmons into first place? Invictus!”
“How else could I describe the way I felt seeing Tim Payne, a man I met three years ago to the day, in his hospital bed at Walter Reed, beaming as he wore his gold medal round his neck? Invictus!”
“What defines the spirit of Denmark’s Jonas Andersen, who loaded the coffin of his friend onto the flight which changed my life in 2008, and then fought through his own dark days to compete in London and Orlando? Invictus!”
“You are all Invictus. You are now ambassadors for the spirit of these games. Spread the word. Never stop fighting. And do all you can to lift up everyone around you.”
“I’ll see you in Toronto!”
It was the perfect end to a simply astonishing week.
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com