My Invictus Diary: Toronto bound

23rd September 2017

My Invictus Diary: Toronto bound

Richard Osborne will be one of the only Brits who will be backing another country at this year’s Invictus Games. His incredible coaching journey has seen him become the coach of the Georgian sitting volleyball team and he’ll be mentoring them at this year’s Games. While in Toronto, he’s writing an exclusive diary for Volleyball England to give a fascinating look at sitting volleyball at the Invictus Games. In his first piece, Richard heads to Canada with some familiar faces…

I didn't realise there were two five o'clocks every day, but I don't like this one! It's still dark but I am full of nervous energy at the prospect of what will unfold over the coming week. I am heading off to Toronto, Canada for the Invictus Games where I will be coaching the Georgian Armed Forces Sitting Volleyball team for a third time. I met them back in 2014, at the inaugural games in London, where they came fourth, and have stayed with them since. This year we are hoping to improve on the bronze medal they won in Orlando, Florida, at last year's Games but for now my focus is to get to the airport on time.

My taxi duly arrives in the shape of my 83-year-old dad. My wife is already loading my suitcase into the car and encouraging my dad to make haste. I get the feeling she is also looking forward to the next week or so!

We arrive at the airport in good time and I tip the driver: "Have a drink on me," I say tucking a tea bag into his shirt pocket. He tuts and drives off. Inside, the terminal is already abuzz with activity and I see ahead a wave of red and white uniforms worn by the UK Invictus Games competitors and staff.  I immediately bump into some familiar faces and the friendly banter starts:  "How's your Georgian coming along, Rich?"  "Ah, gamarjoba, rogor khar," I reply. I am met with a blank face and feel my point is proved!

The UK organisers have kindly allowed me to travel with their team and as they are whisked off for a photoshoot and I am left to my own devices. I start to scour Facebook which is festooned with Invictus Games posts from athletes at different airports across the globe who, like us, are about to embark on the journey to Toronto. There's also a post from my team, South Hants Sitting Volleyball Club, wishing me and the Georgians success. I respond to remind them that my absence is not an excuse for them not to train! South Hants is one of about a dozen sitting volleyball teams across the country and a group of enthusiasts within the sitting volleyball community is working hard to increase that number.

Soon, the team is invited to board the plane and the journey across the pond begins in earnest.  Next stop, Toronto, and, for me, a reunion with a team that holds a special place in my heart.

We arrive in Toronto and as luck would have it the Georgians have just landed too, but I am unable to find them. Instead I make my way to the awaiting coaches that are to transport us to the hotel.  We are met by whoops, hollers and cheers from the assembled volunteers - I can tell already that they are going to be the heartbeat of the Games.

Next, check-in, a quick bag drop in the room and then off to find my team. But first I have to collect my accreditation.  I wander around the vast complex, along with all the other nations who seem to be arriving at once.  Still no sign of the Georgians.  Accreditation achieved, I head to the restaurant and there in the distance I see them. We hug and exchange pleasantries but my work is not yet done so I quickly depart in order to book some additional training slots over the next few days. 

That done, I head back to my room, utterly exhausted. It's about 3am back in the UK so I have been on the go for a little under 24 hours.  The pace will not abate, I know that from my previous experiences, but at least we are now together and can look forward to the beginning of the Games.

My Invictus Diary: Toronto bound