With a career in the military, retired Infantry Capt. Mike Bourgeois is certainly accustomed to travel, teamwork, discipline, and goal-setting. This week, Capt. Bourgeois is applying that considerable skill and experience in a new way, as he competes as an athlete in this year’s Invictus Games. Capt. Bourgeois, originally of Kingston, joins 15 other veterans and 12 serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), all representing Team Canada at The Hague, Netherlands, from April 16 to 22, 2022.
The Invictus Games were founded by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2014, with the goal of celebrating sport as a means of recovery and encouragement for individuals who acquired an illness or a physical or mental health injury while serving in their country’s military.
Capt. Bourgeois suffered a spinal cord injury while in service. The injury led to a severe degradation of mobility, a reduced capacity for multitasking, and poor short-term memory. “The Invictus Games is all about recovery through sport, with a special emphasis on adaptive sport,” he said. “For myself, the journey has been all about overcoming illness/injury, rising to challenges, and using the process to raise awareness about veteran’s care and mental health.”
Although he currently resides in Kelowna, BC., Capt. Bourgeois still feels a hometown-affiliation with the Kingston area. “We grew up in Kingston and Belleville, eventually moving away for work, although, to this day, most of the family still live in the Kingston area. I returned in 1989 to attend the Royal Military College (RMC), graduating as an Infantry Officer (PPCLI) in 1993, and served in the military in Western Canada until 2009. Although I have not lived in Kingston for many years, it will always hold a warm spot in my heart.”
Participants from Team Canada will take part in all 10 sports featured at the Invictus Games at The Hague: archery, athletics, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge. “My sports are archery, sitting volleyball, and cycling,” said Capt. Bourgeois, noting that he has been training in these sports since 2019.
Many of the athletes have had a long wait for the competitions to arrive, as both the 2020 and 2021 Invictus Games had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. In a release, the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) noted that this “has made the preparatory journey of Team Canada quite different from usual, given the cancellation of training camps. Undeterred by such obstacles, the resilient members of Team Canada are focused, confident, excited and ready to compete with their Invictus allies from around the world.”
The DND highlighted that the Games are a truly international event, and that Team Canada “will be competing alongside approximately 500 competitors representing Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.”
Capt. Bourgeois expressed great joy over connecting with such a diverse group of military members from around the world. “The experience of competing alongside 17 other Nations, including Ukraine, has been a very emotional and satisfying experience,” he shared.
Soldier On, a program of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) devoted to the recovery of ill and injured CAF members and veterans, was a key coordinator for Team Canada. In a release, Soldier On explained why enabling that well-rounded experience of wellbeing and connection is so central to the Invictus Games, and to the work that their program does overall: “The word ‘invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It embodies the fighting spirit of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and personifies what these tenacious men and women can achieve post-injury. The Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country. These goals align with the continued efforts of the Canadian Armed Forces Soldier On program to support serving members and veterans recover through sport, recreation, and creative activities.”
Soldier On also noted that even though it’s always great to achieve medal standing in a competition, this is not the primary goal of participants in the Invictus Games. Capt. Bourgeois agreed with this. “The Games are really not about winning medals,” he said, “although that happens. Rather, the Invictus Games represent new beginnings, and I look forward to the next chapter and challenge after the Games are completed.”
In addition to CAF’s Soldier On program, participation of Team Canada in this year’s Invictus Games was made possible in partnership with The True Patriot Love Foundation, and the support of many sponsors. Capt. Bourgeois noted his appreciation for the work that was done to enable Team Canada to join the Invictus Games. “The support from our sponsors has been incredible. Thanks to the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group, Soldier On, True Patriot Love Foundation, Under Armour, Jaguar Land Rover, ATCO, BMO, Ultra, Tim Hortons, and Air Canada, the Invictus National Team has been well cared for.”
You, too, can support and cheer the team on — follow along with Capt. Bourgeois and Team Canada’s progress in the Invictus Games through the Soldier On schedule and results page.