Combat veterans former Corporal Andrew Kinsley and Corporal Mark Andrews will be competing in the 2018 Invictus Games. They forged a close bond while training as they are both connected to The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) and had similar experiences overseas. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Friends heading to 2018 Invictus Games in Australia
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018
Friends Corporal Mark Andrews and former Corporal Andrew Kinsley share many similarities; they are both Afghanistan veterans, have both fought against adversity and will both compete in the Invictus Games.
They are two of three local residents heading to Sydney, Australia to prove their athletic ability on the world stage. Held from Oct. 20 to 27, the multi-sport international event welcomes wounded, injured or sick military members and veterans. More than just a competition, it gives these wounded heroes a sense of purpose and camaraderie, allowing them to harness the power of sports to heal.
As Team Canada is comprised of only 40 members, most of the athletes have more than one sport they will compete in. Kinsley and Andrews are no exception.
Kinsley is participating in wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, swimming, and cycling while Andrews will take part in cycling, sitting volleyball and athletics in the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m races, the four times 100 m relay, and the long jump “Typically you are supposed to have one individual sport, and at least one team sport,” said Kinsley. “For me, it was stuff that I haven’t really done before...that would be a challenge for me.”
He was severely wounded in Afghanistan nine years ago, losing his left leg and sustaining severe muscle damage to his arm. Since then, he has been very involved in the sporting community as well as with Soldier On, knowing that giving himself a new direction would help him recover.
No stranger to the adaptive sports world, he wasn’t even sure whether he would be allowed to participate in the Invictus Games and almost missed the “Welcome to the team” email which had ended up in his spam folder and was only recovered the day before the final registration deadline. It was a pleasant surprise to be chosen and turned his focus to the competition, training to ensure he was ready for the competitive level.
Though Andrews has never really participated in any sports competitively, he is often seen locally on his bike, covering about 40 kilometres nearly every day.
“I’ve run, but I’ve never run track or anything like that,” said Andrews. “It’s just the opportunity to try things competitively. Same with sitting volleyball.” He has a training plan from his coach that he follows to ensure that he has the skills to shine during the Games.
From his time overseas, he developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and found that getting involved in sports has helped him focus and de-stress. “A lot of times, especially when biking, it helps,” said Andrews. “It is kind of like therapy. It lets me be with my thoughts and not worry about everything else that is going on.”
Being a part of the Games has also helped him create strong connections with other athletes experiencing similar situations.
In fact, his friendship with Kingsley was forged through the Invictus Games and the fact that he is serving, and Kinsley formerly served with the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR).
They’ve noticed that combat arms veterans gravitate towards each other during the training camps. Many of them have gone through the same traumas, confronted the same demons and have experienced the same issues while on tour and back home. “Generally we do get along very well, but definitely us in the combat arms, with the infantry and front-line soldiers, we bonded much more strongly,” said Kinsley. “It’s nothing that we preplanned. It was quite natural.” “We understand because we’ve gone through it,” said Andrews.
They are both excited to strive for their personal bests, and perhaps even win the gold this month. Throughout their challenges, they’ve gotten a lot of support from family and friends, and that support has just grown now that they are going to the Games.
Kinsley’s fiancée Erin Moore has been invaluable to his training. Andrews fiancée Melissa Stoddard as well as children Ashton Andrews, Zachary and Dominik Stoddard, and Alissa Conrod are excited to cheer him on.
Since equipment and travel fees are expensive, they are hoping to find sponsorship and would be grateful for any support.
Stoddard has set up a GoFundMe page for donations, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/invictus-games-bring-my-family.