Law student brings home gold at Invictus Games

Annie Devine

A Law student from the University of South Wales was part of the gold medal-winning wheelchair rugby team at the first ever Invictus Games.

Annie Devine, 26, from Tondu in Bridgend, represented the UK at the four-day international event, which was championed by Prince Harry and saw more than 400 injured ex-servicemen and women from 13 different nations take part in a variety of sports.

Annie was medically discharged from the RAF, where she had served as a senior aircraftman technician (SAC(T)), after being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – a genetic disorder which affects the connective tissue all over the body. Her condition has become progressively worse since injuring her hip at the age of 24, and she now uses a wheelchair.

Listen to Annie speaking about her experience at the Invictus Games in this video:


“My last posting was in Norfolk, where I tried wheelchair basketball and really enjoyed it,” said Annie, who is originally from Bangor.

“Then when I moved to Wales, I tried wheelchair racing, which I loved because it was the closest thing to running I could find. Unfortunately my body couldn’t cope with the level of intensity, and the pain became too much to bear.

“I have always told myself that I’ll continue doing something until the pain I’m in overtakes the joy I get from it.”

After spending time at Tedworth House, a recovery centre in Wiltshire which is run by Help for Heroes, Annie started playing sitting volleyball and joined the Battle Back military team, who went on to win the national championships.

“I loved taking part in team sports there because of the camaraderie of an ex-military group,” she said.

After starting training for the Invictus Games earlier this year, Annie switched to wheelchair rugby when the UK team manager appealed for more players.

She sailed through the trials and selection stages, making the final team of 10 to represent the British Armed Forces at the Games.

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Competing at the Copper Box arena, which was used for the London 2012 Olympic Games, Annie’s team defeated their American opponents 13-12 to claim gold in front of a sell-out crowd.

Her mum and two younger brothers had also travelled to London to watch her play.

“The Invictus Games were absolutely incredible,” said Annie.

“When Prince Harry gave me the gold medal I said to him, ‘you did this!’ because without him, the Games wouldn’t have happened. It’s been absolutely tremendous.

“We all have our bad times, our darkness; it’s still something I struggle with now and then. But something as amazing as the Invictus Games gives you a goal to work towards. It helps you see that there is life after recovery.”

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Annie is now in her second year of a Law degree at the University, and hopes to specialise in personal injury law after qualifying, focusing on representing injured ex-servicemen and women.

“Being an injured veteran might help put people at ease,” she added. “I want to give something back and try to make life easier for them if I possibly can.”

Wheelchair rugby coach Paul Jenkins, who helped the Invictus team to win gold, told how Annie has come incredibly far in such a short space of time.

“Considering she and several other players had never played the sport before, and only had about 10 days to master it, they took to it extremely well,” he said.

“I couldn’t have been prouder of the team. I sincerely hope the Invictus Games will continue, because I saw how much of a morale boost being part of it was. It gave them an amazing achievement to celebrate, which was outside of their disability.”

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