Team Australia has touched down to a warm welcome in The Hague, ready for the start of the fifth Invictus Games which begins this Saturday.
The 32 competitors joined 27 staff members and 72 family and friends on an Air Force KC-30A aircraft from Sydney to give the team time to prepare ahead of their events.
Today, Team Australia competitors, team staff and family and friends were able to preview the sports venue for the first time as they attended a welcome reception at the Nations Home at Zuiderpark where they were greeted by Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands His Excellency Matthew EK Neuhaus.
“After two years of waiting and watching this dream build, the reality of just being on deck today really hit home,” explained Chef de Mission Brigadier Phil Winter.
“We actually saw the site with the Australian Ambassador, who spoke about all the preparations the Embassy team has done here to make all these illustrious behind-the-scenes come to life. To see the actual site itself with all its colour and splendour and see many of our other teams arrive on site was really quite moving and brought home that this was really happening.”
Among the enthusiastic Australian competitors is former Airfield Defence Guard Gabriel Ramon, who is thrilled to finally be on the ground in the Netherlands after the two-year postponement.
“I’m not going to lie, when our plane landed it finally sunk in that we were actually here and it brought a tear to my eye,” he said.
“When we came out of the gate at the airport and I saw the ‘Welcome’ sign, I was like, ‘Yes, we’re here. We’re ready to go’.
“And today as we arrived at the Zuiderpark, it just blew my mind. I got goosebumps as we rocked up - it’s mind blowing. I’m just so excited and the adrenaline’s starting to kick in for me.”
Team Australia’s Co-Captain Corporal Sarah Petchell also shared the exhilaration of finally touching down on Dutch soil.
“It's an amazing atmosphere. We're meeting each other's family and friends and I love hearing each other's stories. We’re meeting one another and absorbing the environment, observing the venue, and starting to plan,” said Corporal Petchell.
“It is becoming more and more real. And I think it's really leading us into the opening ceremony where there's going to be a lot of emotion, like we've just had in the Nation's Home and we just saw Team Ukraine come in for the first time to applause and it was very, very emotional. They were getting emotional. We were getting emotional, so already the camaraderie is starting to come out.”
The Games begin on April 16, with Team Australia competitors participating in individual and team sports, including athletics, archery, cycling, indoor rowing, sitting volleyball, swimming, powerlifting, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and the Jaguar Land Rover driving challenge.
For imagery of the Invictus Games visit: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20221161