A Spaniard’s Bay native is preparing for an exciting trip down under.
Mark Vokey, originally from Spaniard’s Bay, has taken on plenty of exciting endeavours throughout his life, and being selected as an athlete for the Invictus Games continues to help him continue that journey.
For a number of years, Vokey served as a Search and Rescue technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force. However, he has had to deal with a shoulder injury that will eventually require a shoulder replacement surgery, on top of the three surgeries he’s already had for the injury.
Now, Vokey’s found himself in a different position in British Columbia, where he works as an instructor at the Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue (SAR) in Comox, teaching medical courses to new SAR techs, as well as those returning for recertification. He told The Compass that this way, he is able to still provide his skills to the forces in a way that does not put him in harm’s way, and can avoid causing more damage to his shoulder.
The Invictus Games originated in the United Kingdom, having been created by Prince Harry in 2014 for the purpose of providing a sporting event for injured and ill armed services personnel.
Now, four years later, the event sees participants joining in from all over the world, including Canada, of which there are just under 40 people chosen to represent the country out of approximately 700 applicants, with Vokey being one of the few Newfoundlanders included in the mix.
After seeing some of his friends take part in the Games, Vokey said he was encouraged to give it a shot as well, and after seeing what the Games have to offer, he decided to go ahead with the idea.
Months later, Vokey was elated to find out he was one of the lucky few to be selected to represent Canada at the Games.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get selected, honestly. It feels a little bit like winning the lottery, actually,” Vokey said. “They make no illusions about the selection criteria – it’s not about your skills in the sport you’re applying for, it’s more about being the type of athlete to embrace the spirit of the Games, rather than the competitive nature of the event itself.
“They’re looking for the comradery and support you’re willing to offer others, and your willingness to challenge yourself despite everything you’ve been through.”
This year, the Games are set to take place in Sydney, Australia, from Oct. 20-27.
The Games feature a number of sporting events such as indoor rowing, powerlifting and wheelchair basketball. Vokey will be taking part in cycling, track, volleyball and archery events – the latter two of which are new to the Invictus Games this year.
Despite his shoulder injury, Vokey said he’s been training for the events in a way that does not strain his shoulder, all while still allowing him to put all his skill behind each volleyball spike and archery notch.
“The Invictus Games are for people that are either still serving, or retired, with an injury that’s attributed to their service. (The Games) are an opportunity to promote healing for these people through sporting events,” Vokey said of the Games themselves. “As you can imagine, many of the veterans, and even those still serving, are struggling with disabling injuries, or mental illnesses.
“Promoting a healthy lifestyle after the forces, despite these injuries, through sport and being involved, and enhancing one’s support network is some of the goals the Invictus Games was meant to achieve. The message of the Games is gaining traction in terms of popularity, and I think people are becoming more aware of what it’s all about.”