PRINCE Harry and new bride Meghan have created plenty of headlines on their tour of Australia, but last night Poppy Pawsey and Sarah Robinson became the real heroes of the Invictus Games.
The royal couple are Down Under for the sporting event created by Harry for wounded servicemen, women and veterans and last night’s effort in the pool would have brought a tear to his eye.
Pawsey and Robinson, both from the UK, took part in the women’s 50m ISD freestyle on Tuesday and while they didn’t blitz the field they won plenty of admirers for a touching moment that symbolised everything the Games are about.
Pawsey qualified eighth fastest for the final, touching the wall in a time of 37.35 seconds. But her job wasn’t done there.
She turned around and, with Robinson still in the water, swam back to her comrade to encourage her over the final 25m, staying with her and egging her on to the very end.
Robinson was in tears at the conclusion of the heat and the pair embraced on the pool deck.
Pawsey was part of the Royal Marines before being discharged because of musculoskeletal illness and after competing at last year’s Invictus Games in Canada has become a mentor for first-timer Robinson.
“I gave her simple instructions, ‘You dive in, you swim and you get out’ — and she did that and it is fabulous,” Pawsey told the Invictus Games website.
“That’s what it is all about here. I am so, so proud of her.
“After Toronto I wanted to swim again. Mainly so I could support the guys who’ve never done it before. I was not all that confident last year, but I am more assured this year. I’ve got my smile back here. I really wanted to be there for teammates like Sarah who have not swum before and who are very nervous.”
An emotional Robinson, who struggles with anxiety, was certainly grateful for her teammate’s support as she reflected on her momentous achievement.
“Poppy has given me so much advice and been so helpful. Recently down at UK Training Headquarters she told me to not to worry and just swim my own race,” Robinson said.
“I was so worried I would come last and be letting people down. I get so scared in the water. You don’t know how huge this is for me. It is iconic. To get to the end and not panic I deem myself proud. I am smiling and even though I am crying I am so happy.
“It was just much better than I expected.”
The touching instalment in the pool comes a day after the crowd was brought to tears by the heartwarming response to one athlete’s distressing break down.
English mine warfare specialist Paul Guest was left visibly upset when he heard a helicopter flying over the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre during his wheelchair tennis doubles match.
The 54-year-old toured Northern Ireland for the English Armed Forces before he was injured on active duty in 1987.
The Navy serviceman suffered injuries to his neck and spine during the incident, resulting in partial deafness and a visibility impairment and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Before receiving the care he needed, Guest attempted suicide four times following his medical discharge from the Armed Forces.
It all came back to him in one traumatic moment at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre when the helicopter could be heard nearby.
Guest was unable to continue his service game after being overcome with emotion.
He was comforted by Dutch teammate Edwin Vermetten, who immediately saw his teammate was suffering and tried to comfort him in an incredible moment.
Vermetten’s emotional support left the crowd in tears as the pair shared a lengthy conversation near the back wall of their court before Guest was eventually able to recover.
Incredibly, the pair went on to win their match in a third set tiebreak.
Vermetten revealed he was able to console his teammate in a moment of raw hurt by singing together.
He described the moment he and Guest sang popular Disney movie anthem “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen as an important moment for the Englishman’s ongoing recovery.
“I took him by the face and said ‘Look at me. We are a team so let it go,’” Vermetten said, according to the Invictus Games website.
“Look into my eyes and sing the Frozen song, and we did.
“For him, this was the moment he let go, and he did, he literally let it all go.”
Unconquered competitor ??Edwin Vermetten’s wife Suzanne and daughters fight back tears as Edwin and ?? competitor Paul Guest came back against an experienced ?? team. Paul and Edwin .met only days ago and already built a strong friendship. pic.twitter.com/ojjVw9jwXK— InvictusSydney (@InvictusSydney)