I was there

JJ Chalmers on his five-year friend­ship with Prince Harry

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

Prince Harry’s birth­day, 15 Septem­ber

The first time I met Prince Harry was at the side of a swim­ming pool at the Royal Marines Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Triathlon – an event held mostly for those in­jured in Afghanista­n.

I was three years into my re­cov­ery af­ter be­ing blown up by an IED (im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice) in 2011. It can be a dark place but I had re­dis­cov­ered my in­de­pen­dence and was look­ing for a chal­lenge. When Harry told us about his idea for the games (an adapted sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion for those from a mil­i­tary back­ground whether in­jured, un­well or sick), we had no idea how big it would be. We thought we’d be hav­ing a runaround like a sports day.

Harry had a vi­sion that it would be a re­cov­ery tool for guys like my­self and that peo­ple would come and watch. So he asked me to com­pete, but also to go on camera and talk about what had hap­pened to me.

That year, I won a bronze in the time trial event, and three of us crossed the fin­ish line to­gether in the cir­cuit race. They gave us gold medals, and when Harry turned up at the track to see who it was, he said, ‘Oh, of course it would be you id­iots.’

In­vic­tus 2014 was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of pre­sent­ing and I caught the bug for it. I de­cided to go into broad­cast­ing and now I’m a sports pre­sen­ter.

This photo was taken two years later at the Florida In­vic­tus Games. Harry al­ways had a sense of what he wanted to cre­ate with In­vic­tus, and what he was about to cre­ate with us – we, mean­while, had no idea.

Harry and I had served at more or less the same time and, for Harry, the games pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to come back into the mil­i­tary. He’s told me that it’s hugely im­por­tant to him that he gets to scratch that itch. It’s the same itch we’ve all got – a long­ing to have a lit­tle bit of your old life back. He’s one of the boys, sim­ple as that.

I went to his wed­ding, and it re­ally felt as if I was just at a friend’s wed­ding – even though two bil­lion peo­ple were watch­ing and I was sit­ting next to George Clooney.

The last time I saw Harry was two days af­ter Archie was born. I know what it’s like hav­ing to be away from your chil­dren, but the In­vic­tus Games was his first child and it’ll al­ways be im­por­tant to him so he’ll al­ways turn up. I hope that it will go from strength to strength, but the im­por­tant thing is that Harry’s a father now and I know that he and Meghan are go­ing to be great par­ents.

— As told to So­phie Fos­ter In­vic­tus Games 2020, The Hague, Nether­lands 9-16 May; in­vic­tus­games2020.nl

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