#9 – Romanian team is happy that the Invictus Games are possible

Together with his teammates from the Romanian delegation for the Invictus Games, Florin Oprea has been looking forward to the event in The Hague for months. “What I want to see in May? The tulips of course. After all the Netherlands is the land of tulips. But above all, I look forward to the people; spectators and participants. When I am abroad, I always find it interesting to start conversations, to discover what people are like, how they think.”

By Edward Swier

Florin is only 27, even though he has been in the Romanian army for a long time. At the age of fourteen he went to the Military High School. In 2014 he had risen to second lieutenant. A mission to Afghanistan then changed his life. Florin Oprea and some of his friends were injured in an IED blast. After the bomb explosion, he was transported to Germany, recovered in a hospital and continued his mission after a month and a half. However, to this day, injuries to his head, back, legs and lungs have still not completely healed. He still feels it when he works out.

“I notice it with running. It is sometimes difficult to tolerate the pain of training. Before starting with training a few months ago, I had participated scarcely in sports for a couple of years. It was literally like having to learn to walk again.”

His condition improved fast. “Partly because I’m pretty thin,” Florin laughs. “By working hard, and fully devoting myself to it, I notice that I am making rapid progress. I also hope to achieve some good results in The Hague soon. But the most important thing is that I notice that my body, in spite of the muscle aches that I have from exercising, generally recovers from this. I’m getting better and better, and that is of course really important.”

They feel special

Romania was in Toronto for the first time in 2017. “We are one of the few participating countries from Eastern Europe. That is a great feeling for us, we feel a bit special. And are still happy that participants made that possible.”

Still grateful

Personally, Florin was introduced to the Invictus Games in Sydney. However, not as a participant. “I had the opportunity to go to Sydney in 2018. And I can say that that has changed my life. I thought it was really great, that experience was so beautiful. I have never seen anything more beautiful. It was immensely emotional, and on a daily basis am still grateful that I had the opportunity to make a living there. This year I want to feel the same way my fellow countrymen felt in Sydney, on the field, in the gym or in the swimming pool.”

“After that Invictus Games in Sydney, I started exercising again. Athletics, I was fascinated by that. I had never really run seriously myself. During my childhood I played volleyball, but not at a serious level or anything like that. I just enjoyed it.”

Oprea is, partly because he quickly suffers from muscle pain after training, looking for the distance that suits him best. “I think my favourite distance is somewhere between a thousand and two thousand meters. At the Invictus Games I am currently participating in all the distances, from 100 to 1500 meters, but I will also participate in the long jump. That is quite a challenge, because I also got injured in my spine.”

It fills Florin Oprea with pride that he is making so much progress and that he will soon be going to the Netherlands. “It makes me satisfied on multiple fronts. It is good for my body, but it also gives you the feeling that you can do something for your country again. I’m in it again.”

Support each other

The Romanian delegation going to the Netherlands will consist of around 65 people. In addition to the 20 participants and staff members, a large number of Familiy & Friends will be travelling along. Oprea is one of the five Romanian participants in the Athletics competition. And above all he is team captain. The bond with his sporting countrymen has grown rapidly. “We train quite a lot together, and we also have meetings and events where we see each other. We can support each other well. Of course, if someone is physically or mentally struggling, he or she always gets a little push from the others.”

About half of the team trains weekly, if not daily, together in Bucharest. For example, on the athletics track where Florin also runs laps. The rest is scattered throughout the country. Florin keeps in touch with everyone, in his role as a team captain. Being 27 years old, Florin Oprea is probably the youngest team captain at the Invictus Games. “I am really very proud of that. Thankful too. My fellow athletes have chosen me. I don’t know if it played a role that I was the youngest, maybe it’s because I’m the only officer. I especially think that I have been chosen because others have also seen that I personally work hard for it, but that I also keep an eye on others. I try to help others, show understanding for their personal situations.”

It is not easy to be a team captain though. “It’s really quite difficult. I am used to working with others, listening to others. So, I can manage this too. But it is quite a burden if you know that you are expected to do your best to help another person solve problems and difficulties. Fortunately, I don’t have to do that alone, there are many more people that will catch us during these times.”

Inspire others

In Romania there is clear interaction between members of the Invictus team and outsiders. “As the Romanian Invictus Team we also try to inspire others, we often invite them to join us. For example, every Thursday people can walk with us. And we also visit events. We want to show that even though you have problems in your life, and you have been affected by an accident one or more times, you can overcome it. If you, just like us, do your best.”

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