#6 – Invictus Games team New Zealand is really one team

Buffy Little felt that it was time to raise her hand

She has gone through a lot in her years as a nurse in the New Zealand army. In addition to being deployed to conflict areas such as Iraq, Buffy Little was also involved in first aid missions after the terrible earthquakes in Christchurch. And recently she helped with the evacuation and relief of victims of the volcano eruption on White Island. “That was a bizarre situation.”

By Edward Swier

“I love my job. It is very satisfying. Of course, you have a lot to take in. In 2016, during the deployment to Iraq, with our colleagues from the Australian army, we really did mean something. I could literally save a few lives there. That gives me a good feeling. Being confronted with a lot of suffering is part of the job, certainly because I specialize in very complicated operations. I always see the worst cases.” That is not only true in war situations, Buffy Little also regularly comes into action in the event of an emergency. For example, for the heavy earthquakes in New Zealand a few years ago and the recent volcanic eruption.” That is even more valuable than the job, that the population is grateful. It is important that soldiers also do this kind of work.”

Breast cancer
She was out of it for some time in recent years. Buffy Little has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice. “After the first treatment I did not take enough time for my recovery. Now I feel that I am really improving.” So much so that she is ready for the Invictus Games. “I have heard the stories from colleagues who had taken part in past Invictus Games, but it only hit me this time around that I felt the need to raise my hand.”

The selection was not put together just like that. New Zealand organized two selection events in which the number of potential participants was reduced from 98 to the 22 who will be coming to The Hague. “We are coming with a mix of veterans and men and women who are still in active service. Athletes are coming with both physical and mental problems. In addition, all three sections of our New Zealand Defense Force are represented: the Royal New Zealand Navy, the New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Since we have a relatively small army, we work together a lot. You also notice this within our Invictus Team. We have no sub-groups but are really one team.”

Sport became a new passion
Personally, Buffy Little is registered for three sports: cycling (both the criterion and the time trial), archery and wheelchair basketball. “I had more of a connection to cycling as I also cycle in my spare time. Specifically, on a mountain bike. I love wheelchair basketball. Secretly also a bit because it is about team dynamics and because it can be quite intense and rough. Nonetheless, it isn’t easy. I am already not the biggest person out there and if you are then also in a wheelchair, it is not easy to shoot a ball through the ring. But it is challenging and that makes it especially fun.”

Archery could become her new passion. “I never thought that. But it appears that I am a natural. We’ve had a number of clinics from good archers, from the New Zealand team to be exact, and they all encourage me to continue. It appears that others have trained for years to be able to adopt the attitude that I naturally choose. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool to hear. If I also remain relaxed, I shoot at my best. The moment during archery when others have to concentrate to the fullest, it is better I don’t. It is precisely then that I am often further off from the bullseye.”

Participating is more important than winning medals
Whether or not she wins a medal, Buffy has a higher goal. “It’s about participating, I see this more or less as the completion of my recovery process. I have been struggling for a long time and have not worked enough on my recovery, but this time I have. I had to recover well both emotionally and mentally, but also had to strengthen myself physically. The fact that I am going to participate now is proof to me that I am doing that, which is a good prospect. That is what the Invictus Games are all about, that you set your own personal goals. And that you make these goals. That is more important than winning medals. But of course, once we are on the field, we will all do our utmost best to achieve the best possible.”

Two of the special training camps that New Zealand has organized for the team have already taken place. Moreover, one is already planned for early 2020. “On these occasions there will be special coaches, we will work on our technique for almost a week. And we cultivate our group feeling; the bond is getting stronger. In the meantime, of course, you have to work on your fitness on your own, where you will receive a training schedule for the individual training sessions. Some have also joined a local association.”

The fact that she was chosen to be co-captain together with Bob Pearce surprised her. “We were taken aside during the first training camp we had with the group and were then asked if we both wanted to be co-captain. I then took a looked around me, I really thought they were talking to someone else. I am very honored; I would have been happy for any one of my teammates. Why did they choose me? I don’t know exactly. Maybe because I can get along with everyone? I am easy to approach and also easily approach others. I would like to be there for others, I guess that is the reason.”

Personally, she has no difficulty with sharing her story. “I’m easy regarding that, never kept it to myself either. If people want to hear my story, I tell it. But I also realize that it is easier for me to talk about it than for someone with PTSD for example.”

Friends & Family are looking forward to coming to The Hague too
Buffy is taking her mother and her wife Alana with her to The Netherlands. She personally doesn’t have any ancestors from The Netherlands, but some of her teammates do. “We are all looking forward to it anyway. This, for us, is the highest that can be achieved in sporting and social terms. We can all draw hope from this during our recovery process.”

Where the previous edition was “close to home” in Sydney, Australia, the Invictus Games of 2020 are literally on the other side of the world. “We have already heard many things about it, also from our friends who have already participated. Our Friends & Family are just as excited as we are.”

For those who aren’t going, the Invictus Games are easy to follow. “From what I remember last time in Sydney, our main news channel gave a summary of the events every night. That there is public attention for these Games naturally contributes to the understanding. If you show what others, after all the misery they have experienced, can do again, understanding will come. That prevents people from creating a stigma.”

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