I was there
JJ Chalmers on his five-year friendship with Prince Harry
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