City of Victoria hails Warrior Games Athletes

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Four Victoria-based athletes from Canada’s 2019 Warrior Games team were presented Letters of Appreciation by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Leading Seaman Desi Cozier, Petty Officer Second Class Lisa Nilsson, and Captain (Retired) Jennifer Sizer were the guests of honour in the July 15 ceremony at Victoria City Hall. During the ceremony, the athletes also accepted a Letter of Appreciation on behalf of their teammate, Master Corporal (Retired) Frieda Van Putten, who was unable to attend.

They were among the 36 ill and injured veterans and currently serving military who represented Team Canada at the United States’ Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 21 to 30 in Tampa, Fla.

Mayor Helps congratulated the participants for their service to Canada’s military and also for their determination to compete at the games despite their physical or mental injuries.

“That is so powerful, and I think the three of you are role models for others serving, those considering serving, and to show you can still be injured and still be a warrior,” said Helps prior to presenting the framed certificates. 

The Warrior Games were established in 2010 and were the inspiration for His Royal Highness Prince Harry to create the Invictus Games. Approximately 300 veterans and armed forces members from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands competed in this year’s Warrior Games.

Capt(Ret’d) Sizer was one of two Canadians who participated in the Ultimate Warrior Category at the Games, competing in eight events and capturing a bronze medal in women’s power lifting. Capt (Ret’d) Sizer, a former logistics officer, served more than 14 years in the Canadian Armed Forces but released in 2015 due to mental and physical injuries. She and her teammates said they greatly appreciated the show of support from Mayor Helps and the City of Victoria.

“It was fantastic to be recognized,” she said. “Recognition such as this helps promote this program for future Warrior Games athletes, enabling others to take advantage of it, which is very important.”

Canada’s 2019 team won 21 medals: 10 gold, five silver and six bronze. But most of the Games’ participants emphasize the participatory and healing aspects of the Games as far more important than topping the podium.

PO2 Nilsson, who suffers from permanent neck, shoulder, and spine injuries, participated in power lifting, wheelchair basketball, and archery. She was unable to compete in the women`s swimming relay.  This was due to an accident on June 26, which aggravated her injuries, requiring admittance  to hospital for six days. She described receiving recognition from Mayor Helps and her entire Games’ experience as “truly gratifying and humbling.”

She says the experience of getting to meet other “incredible” athletes during the games meant more to her than any medal. One competitor who had lost both of his legs was particularly inspiring, she said, and he fully backed up her personal belief that “being broken is not the end but a new beginning and that’s what it is all about.”

“This gentleman had spirit, hope, and a purpose, and that’s the feeling these games give you,” said PO2 Nilsson. “Because many of us have been lost in our own lives and our own heads, these games give us hope and purpose, making things better and giving us something to look forward to.”

PO2 Nilsson, a sonar operator, is currently posted to the Esquimalt branch of the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group. The newly created formation delivers casualty support and transition services to Canadian Armed Forces members and their families, including the Soldier On program. The participation of Team Canada in the Warrior Games, as well as the Invictus Games, is made possible through the Soldier On program. The program also organizes numerous regional sports camps throughout the year. 

Transition Centre Esquimalt Regional Unit Chief, Chief Petty Officer Second Class Matthew Goodwin was also in attendance at the Mayor’s office. He assisted in Team Canada’s training camp in Victoria last March. He didn’t travel to Tampa for the Games but says he closely tracked the progress of PO2 Nilsson and other athletes on the Games’ website and via the Soldier On Facebook account. 

“It was very important for me to be here today to show my support for Lisa and our other athletes,” said CPO2 Goodwin. “It was awesome following the games and getting inside information by chatting with Nilsson every day.”