#1 – Dutch team is preparing for the Invictus Games The Hague 2020

They can read and write together now. Team captain Wouter Bakker and team manager Nils Berghout are preparing to participate in the Invictus Games with the 32-person Dutch team. “We will pay attention to the others, it will be very exciting for some of us.”

By Edward Swier

It is not the first time for Wouter Bakker (38) to participate in the Invictus Games, as he also participated in Sydney. That is precisely what makes it possible for the Leidener to act as a team captain. ,, I will try to be the connecting factor between the individuals who come along, and ensure that we are a team. I will pay attention to the others and keep in mind that the rest will do the same. For some it will be exciting, perhaps because it is the first time for them. For people with PTSD, for example, that can be quite a challenge. At a large, busy event like this the mental aspect also comes into play. ”

Unique kind of companionship
The fact that the upcoming Invictus Games will be in the Netherlands in 2020 means that he finds his job even more incredible. ,, The event gets a lot of attention and there will be many relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I can’t wait to show everyone what the Invictus Games are exactly. It is nice to let someone else experience that the performance of someone who finishes last is perhaps much greater than that of the first to cross the line. Of course, you become a fanatic and want to end up getting the best position possible, but it is primarily about achieving your personal goals. ”

His participation in Australia, in 2018, felt like more. ,, It is a special event to be allowed to experience. There is an atmosphere that you will not find anywhere else. There is a unique kind of companionship, sometimes with people you’ve never seen before. Everyone has a scar somewhere and knows what it means to come back from something violent. ”

Motorcycle accident
Personally, Bakker had a motorcycle accident four years ago while working. He sustained internal injuries and his ankle was shattered. ,, I suffered a coma for two days in the intensive care unit. Then I slowly got myself up and running. I have had surgery on my ankle a few times now, another operation will follow this month. Throughout the same period, I had rehabilitation and could almost do everything again. However, the ankle injury was so extensive that in the past six months there was regression. We have been searching for the solution for years now. ”

Bakker is currently employed by a criminal investigation unit as operational work for the military police is no longer possible. ,, I can no longer take to the streets, I am in the office. That was hard to accept, but I had to. ”

The power of sport
He ran into the Invictus Games “by accident”. ,, I played volleyball before my accident and wanted to pick it up again. But when I knew that my ankle was not working properly, I got the tip from my girlfriend to play volleyball at the rehabilitation center. She pushed me to go, a very important incentive. It was quite a challenge for several reasons. Standing volleyball is much easier! ”

Bakker also participates in wheelchair basketball at the Invictus Games. ,, That was a big step for me – it was very confronting to sit in a wheelchair. The chances of me not ending up in a wheelchair were slim, and that mentally affects you. But now I am used to that idea and I also like wheelchair basketball very much. ”

Team manager Nils Berghout, who, among other things, manages the staff, has been in increasingly close contact with Bakker. Together, they notice that the Invictus Games 2020 spirit lives in the Netherlands. This also has had a side effect though. Berghout: ,, In recent times, many soldiers have also reported to join that we had never seen before. We always explain that it’s not just about the Invictus Games and participation in it should not be the ultimate goal. The event is a small step in the entire process of getting better, of reintegration. ”

The Netherlands sends both the mentally and physically injured servicemen and women to the event in The Hague. They can train at the Military Rehabilitation Center in Doorn. The entire group meets at least once a month. ,, In the early years we had a larger number of physically injured, which is very logical after the major missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the balance is increasingly moving towards the mentally injured. And there is probably a whole group of them that has remained under the radar and we have not yet seen yet. We are convinced that this group can also benefit from sports within their reintegration process. ”

Berghout and his people explicitly monitor whether PTSD victims in particular are ready for participation. “The event and the run-up to it can be a rollercoaster, you have to be ready for that.”

Family & Friends
Where some countries have made the choice that participants in the Games can only join once, The Netherlands decided that athletes can re-join. ,, For some, the first time participating in the Games is so overwhelming that they are mainly concerned and focused on themselves. Then Familiy & Friends, for example, do not come in the picture at all. However, we we believe that they are just as important in the Games. By participating in the Games a second time, they can experience it much more together. It is also nice if athletes can share their experiences from the first time with the newcomers. After all, they still know how it works, how intense things can be or how bad it is. ”

Berghout believes the Invictus Games are of great importance. ,, Firstly, for the personal growth of the athletes, but it is also an important event to generate acceptance and support from society. It is important to show what sport can mean for wounded soldiers. ”

This is the first episode in a series of stories from all participating countries in the Invictus Games. Next week the Canadian Leander Volz will tell his story.

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