The swimming competition began with a splash at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on Tuesday morning.
The first event was the Women’s 50m ISD Freestyle, with Australian swimmers Taryn Barbara, Ruth Hunt and Sarah Sliwka qualifying fastest for the Final.
However, it was UK pair Poppy Pawsey and Sarah Robinson who stole the hearts of the excited vocal crowd, as they hugged each other poolside after their heat, embracing in tears.
Robinson, a 41-year-old Army Sergeant, finished 23rd overall, clocking a time of 1:13.26.
“It was just much better than I expected,” said Robinson.
Pawsey, who qualified eighth in a smart time of 37.35, then looked her team mate in the eye and declared “You were awesome!” to which Robinson burst into tears and agreed “Yes, I suppose I was awesome and I am really proud of myself”.
32-year-old Pawsey was discharged from the Royal Marines as a result of a musculoskeletal illness. The same year, she went on to compete in the Invictus Games Toronto 2017.
She’s now a mentor for novice Robinson.
I gave her simple instructions – ‘you dive in, you swim and you get out’ – and she did that and it is fabulous.
When Pawsey finished her race, tired as she was, she immediately turned around and swam back down the pool to encourage Robinson over her last 25 metres.
“That’s what it is all about here. I am so, so proud of her,” said Pawsey.
“After Toronto I wanted to swim again. Mainly so I could support the guys who’ve never done it before. I was not all that confident last year, but I am more assured this year. I’ve got my smile back here. I really wanted to be there for team mates like Sarah who have not swum before and who are very nervous,” added Pawsey, who also competed in the sailing competition on Sunday.
“Poppy has given me so much advice and been so helpful. Recently down at UK Training Headquarters she told me to not to worry and just swim my own race,” said a grateful Robinson.
Finishing the race, Robinson, who battles with anxiety, finally released all her pre-race tension.
I was so worried I would come last and be letting people down. I get so scared in the water. You don’t know how huge this is for me. It is iconic. To get to the end and not panic I deem myself proud. I am smiling and even though I am crying I am so happy.
The swimming competition wraps up on Wednesday evening at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
Invictus Games Sydney 2018