25 October 2018

Oldest competitor overwhelmed by special gesture

Cavell Simmonds, wheelchair rugby
Cavell Simmonds plays in the Jaguar Land Rover wheelchair rugby exhibition match on Thursday.

“The Games just make me feel alive,” said 67-year-old Cavell Simmonds, the Canadian woman who is inspiring other competitors.

Not only is the Invictus Games debutant the oldest competitor at Sydney 2018, but she has tackled almost the entire sporting program.

The retired military nurse’s try against Australia as part of the Unconquered wheelchair rugby team almost lifted the roof off the Quaycentre building on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Simmonds played in the Jaguar Land Rover wheelchair rugby exhibition match straight after qualifying for the bronze medal contest in the archery.

Simmonds was in the warm up area when Australian competitor Jamie Tanner walked over to give her his #11 Australian shirt.

Cavell Simmonds shirt

“You inspire me so much,” he said.

“For someone who has never played wheelchair rugby before and who just went and had a go, you put everyone to shame.

“I am so proud to have met you.”

Simmonds said she was “overwhelmed” by the gesture.

“To be accepted by all these young people is really special,” she said.

Since winning the Golf Open presented by ISPS Handa at the start of the Games she has competed in powerlifting and sitting volleyball, as well as “murder ball” and archery.

Jennifer Alexander, a competitor at Invictus Games Toronto 2017, persuaded Simmonds to apply for these Games.  She is now cheering her friend on as a spectator.

“I am so proud of her,” said Alexander.

Cavell Simmonds of Canada

Simmonds, who retired in 2009 after more than 35 years as a military nurse thought that her age would count against her.

She said her highlight of the Games was “seeing the light in people’s eyes for just being involved”.

PTSD can be really isolating. At the Invictus Games you are among like-minded people and they can identify with you.

“The cruelty of war is just unimaginable,” she said.

A throat cancer survivor who has undergone three major operations, she is proud that she can still talk and still eat.

She now speaks to cancer patients and supports them on their journey.

“I do what I can,” she said.

Bev Jordan
Invictus Games Sydney 2018