For Giuseppe Erriquez, lieutenant colonel in the Italian army, participation in the Invictus Games literally gives “new energy, new power. It will be a very inspiring journey for the entire Italian team. We are curious about the other participants, would like to meet people from other countries, and of course also travel with our Friends & Family. Because we also believe that participating in the Invictus Games will make us all stronger.”
For Erriquez, team captain of Italy, it will be his first time participating in the Invictus Games. With other countries choosing to send participants more often, Italy does not. “We are twenty newcomers and are all very curious about what to expect.”
Invictus Games Team Italy
Just like the previously mentioned, Azzurri, Erriquez is physically injured. “It was a long time ago. I had an accident in 1998. For this edition, we are only sending veterans and soldiers with physical injury. Most have sustained those injuries in the army and have now recovered from it or are recovering.”
The Italian team will consist of twenty athletes. The preparation has already begun. “We do a lot of training individually, because we are all stationed or living in a different part of the country. We will come together more often in the run-up to the Invictus Games.”
For chief officer Erriquez, the position of team captain is an honorable one, but he does not want to waste too many words on it. “Because I feel no different from my teammates, I am the same as my fellow participants,” says Erriquez, who will take part in indoor rowing and archery in The Hague.
Focusing on the target
“I started training after the summer, on average three times a week. Rowing is going well, you become stronger the more you train. There is a gym where I can go. The possibilities to practice archery are sometimes a bit more difficult. But it is a difficult sport in itself, because it requires a lot of concentration. It is very challenging to keep focusing on the target.”
Erriquez’ task as team captain also consists of representing his team on various occasions. In the run-up to the Invictus Games he has already visited several events. Of these events, in 2018, Erriquez visited six other Italian soldiers from the Paralympic Defense Sports Group (GSPD) in Washington, where they met with those involved in the American army project Wounded Warriors. Both countries exchanged a lot of information during that occasion, one of which was regarding the reintegration of wounded soldiers into the army.
Gruppo Sportivo Paralimpico della Difesa (GSPD) was established in 2014 after the Ministry of Defense and the Italian Paralympic Committee came to an agreement. The Paralympic Defense Sports Group has the specific objective of re-engaging military personnel who have sustained injuries or have not been able to actively continue in the military due to illness, through the use of sport. A large number of activities are organized by the GSPD, which has already led to successful broadcasts to various Paralympic competitions, including World Cups, the Paralympic Games and the Invictus Games. At the last edition of the Invictus Games, in Sydney, the Italian military representatives won 18 medals.
The Hague 2020
Although Erriquez naturally hopes to perform as well as possible, he does not necessarily want to win a medal. “Sure, you motivate yourself in the run-up by doing better every time than last time. That is precisely what it is all about: you want to achieve your personal goals.”
“But it is also important that you participate, that you share your experiences with others, that you meet new people from very different countries. You will be inspired by that, that will be the highlight. For yourself, but also for the Friends & Family that you take with you.” Erriquez will be bringing his wife and two daughters, aged 16 and 19, to The Hague. “I met my wife just before I had the accident. We got married three years later and did my rehabilitation together. It is only commonsense that they also come along.”
“We have noticed that our story has been gaining publicity in Italy. The media contribute to this. Within the army, as well as, in society, there is more interest in the reintegration process of mentally or physically wounded soldiers. We are also receiving more attention from the government.” That will only increase as the Invictus Games is approaching. “It is not only for that reason that we are looking forward to the trip to The Netherlands. We are just very proud to be able to participate and are looking forward to the new experiences.”