No-one needs to tell Ukraine’s Vadym Svyrydenko the value of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 presented by Jaguar and Land Rover.
And few people have the added perspective of being a competitor and now a team official.
Svyrydenko arrived in Sydney on Thursday with the 15-member Ukraine team for the fourth edition of the Invictus Games, which officially start on Saturday with the Opening Ceremony at the Sydney Opera House.
He is a medallist in rowing from the 2017 Invictus Games held in Toronto, Canada.
“Not competing this year, competed in Toronto,” Svyrydenko said.
“My heart is always with the team and I always support all of them,”
Svyrydenko is now Commissioner to the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, and one of his many responsibilities is the government’s rehabilitation of veterans of the war.
His war service has made Svyrydenko a ‘Hero of Ukraine’ but it is the Invictus Games that allowed him to re-start his life as an amputee after he finished a long rehabilitation process.
“My story is a long one! I was a member of an anti-terrorist operation, 128th Brigade in September 2014,” he said, adding he was wounded five months later.
“At this time, the brigade was surrounded. I was to be evacuated to our own territory with our soldiers, but our team was cut off and my wounds got much worse.
“I ended up in frozen weather for four days before I was finally evacuated out,” he recalled.
“In Kyiv, the surgeons said the only prognosis was to amputate all four limbs.
“I spent three months in rehab in Kyiv, and then went to the USA for over a year for full rehab.”
Then he was able to use sport as part of his recovery. In addition to competing in Toronto, Svyrydenko has run in two marathons in the USA organised by the Marine Corp.
“When someone is seriously wounded, you start a new life and sport became a part of my new lifestyle,” he said.
“In the beginning, I was told ‘If you wanna walk, start running’. When I became a member of the Invictus Games team, I understood that those who are seriously wounded can start a totally new way of life through sport.”
Returning to Ukraine, Svyrydenko set about using his Invictus Games experience as an opportunity for veterans in his country.
“And that’s how I became the representative of the President of Ukraine on veterans Issues, for those who have been injured in war zones.
“Our team is from all parts of the armed forces and sport is the one thing that has brought them all together and maintained them in their journey going forwards. The Invictus Games has given them a new life.”
The Ukraine had a big following of supporters at Sydney Airport when they arrived for the Games.
Invictus Games Sydney 2018