a family holding up Australia signs
Three generations
cheering on

Family from Australia accompanies Ryan Kelly

His parents Bruce and Karrie, his partner Brandi and the children Kai and Koa have painted large posters. “Family and Friends” members from other nations also motivate in the swimming hall at the INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing with lots of good humour and applause.

Anyone entering the swimming hall is greeted by loud cheers. The spectators are in their element. At the front of the stand, the yellow jerseys of the Australians immediately catch the eye, filling more than five rows of seats. They are equipped with objects in their colours: yellow inflatable kangaroos, green fans and hats, yellow-rimmed glasses and many flags. They spread good humour and cheerfulness and when the DJ puts on groovy music between the competitions, they rock the stage.

Then, during the 50-metre backstroke competition in the ISE classification, two boys suddenly jump up and hold up posters. “Ryan Kelly” and a red heart can be seen on one poster, “We are proud” on another. When their dad Ryan wins the preliminary heat, the two are thrilled to bits. Joining the boys in cheering are the grandparents Karrie and Bruce and Ryan’s partner Brandi.

a family holding up Australia signs

Three generations are here together at the poolside to root for the sportsman. “It’s great to see him swimming now after all the hard training he’s been doing lately. It’s his first Invictus Games,” Brandi enthuses. Ryan will also compete in sitting volleyball on Thursday and in archery on Friday. But swimming is his favourite sport, she said. “I don’t have the words to explain what these Invictus Games mean to my son and our family,” mentions Karrie.

Team Australia, with athletes, coaches, support staff and around 80 “Family and Friends” members, landed onboard a special military aircraft on Wednesday in Düsseldorf. “We have been given a great welcome here. Düsseldorf is wonderful, we’ve already seen a lot and we took the hop-on hop-off bus,” tells Brandi.

The large group of German fans is also infected by the music and the exciting atmosphere in the swimming hall. Among them are Mr and Mrs Eyrich from Eschwege. Dieter and Karin are supporting their daughter Julia. They are raising a poster with a photo of Julia and the inscription: “Your dream will come true. Good Luck, Superwoman!” “We are so proud. She has already won a bronze medal in indoor rowing,” Karin says.

The Kanzenbach family, Jürgen’s wife Annika and the four children are standing in the stand as their dad waits for the start. Spotting his family, he blows them kisses. The children are forming hearts with their hands. They wear homemade T-shirts, each child has his favourite photo with his father on it. “Dad, Dad!” they cheer. The latter takes the second place in the preliminary 50-metre freestyle in the ISE classification. “My husband will also be competing in sitting volleyball, so of course we’ll be there too,” Annika Kanzenbach relates.

In the pool, there is full commitment. While for some athletes it is a matter of hundredths of a second, for others it is only the finishing edge of the pool that counts. The spectators know this and cheer on all the swimmers. Posters with the inscription “Believe” and “Just keep swimming” can be seen there. Those who have already finished the race support the slower ones and welcome them with appreciative pats on the back, high-fives and hugs. Here in the swimming hall, too, you can feel the spirit of the Invictus Games.

Written by: Monika Hartjes