Prince Harry will take centre stage in the Invictus Games today as he joins stars of sport and entertainment for an exhibition wheelchair rugby match.
Harry will line up alongside Olympians Dame Kelly Holmes and Denise Lewis, as well as his cousin Zara Phillips and her Rugby World Cup-winning husband Mike Tindall, and fellow England rugby player Jason Robinson for the match at the Copper Box Arena this evening.
Rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson and former England rugby manager Sir Clive Woodward will lock horns as managers for each team in the competition, which will see the stars line up alongside wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
The match is part of the inaugural Invictus Games, championed by Harry, which sees 400 competitors from 13 nations go head-to-head in nine different adaptive sports over four days.
Yesterday, as he watched the action at the Lee Valley Athletic Centre in London, Harry said he was “thrilled” by the first day, which saw Britain’s wounded warriors win a clutch of gold medals.
The sporting spectacle continues today with archery and wheelchair rugby competitions, but one of the highlights is the star-studded exhibition wheelchair rugby match, which will be featured on the BBC’s One Show.
Olympic silver medallist Phillips said: “I have seen wheelchair rugby being played before but I haven’t played. I can’t imagine I’m going to be very good at it, but obviously we’ll bring our A-game!
“I’m looking forward to being part of an amazing Games. Having servicemen and women from all over the globe come together and compete in sport is going to be fantastic.”
Dame Kelly added: “As an ex-military soldier, I’m extremely honoured to be part of the Invictus Games.
“I have immense admiration for all these servicemen and women who have served their country.”
Yesterday Harry was joined by the Duke of Cambridge and his father the Prince of Wales at the opening day of the Games, declaring he was “thrilled” by the way it had gone.
By the end of the first day of the four-day Games, Britain had won 15 gold medals, seven silver and six bronze but were trailing to team US who had won more than 70 medals.
Wheelchair racer Joseph Townsend, a former royal marine, claimed four victories on the track in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 1,500m. He was dubbed by Harry as “our David Weir, a medal machine”, comparing the ex-serviceman to the athlete who won three gold medals at the Paralympics.
Former Army captain David Henson, British Armed Forces team captain, who was cheered by the ecstatic spectators as he won a 200m gold, declared: “It’s been an emotional day”.
The gold rush began when Alex Tate, 24, who lost his left leg when he was blown up in Afghanistan in 2012, crossed the finishing line first in a 100m race and later described the Games as the “best rehabilitation any soldier could have”.
Double gold Andy Grant, 26, who triumphed in the 400m and 1,500m races for competitors who have lost limbs below the knee, said: “I don’t think there is anything more inspiring than seeing a guy who two years ago was lying in a ditch in Afghanistan bleeding to death, and now he is running 100m in Paralympic time.”