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Invictus Romania team, officially presented; team captain: Courage means moving forward each day

Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea
Inquam Nicolae Ciucă

Team Romania at the 2020 Invictus Games - to be attended by soldiers injured in war zones - was officially presented on Monday evening, in the presence of Defence Minister Nicolae Ciuca. 

The minister spoke about the Invictus Games, which he said were not "a competition project." 

"[Invictus] is a project of what the spirit of the Romanian army means. It is a project of the pride of being a serviceman," he said, adding that through this experience, veterans show that "physical or mental limitations can be overcome." 

Sergeant First Class Ionut Butoi, who was part of team Romania at Invictus 2017 in Toronto and Invictus 2018 in Sydney, said that although the event is not focused on competition, "the medal comes when you train hours on end." 

"It helped me a lot, because I was locked up in an office eight hours a day. For two years now, I don't even know what the office looks like," said Butoi, an archery medallist at Invictus in 2017 and 2018. 

A roll call was done of each of the 29 members of team Romania at Invictus 2020 during the ceremony at the Military Club, with a brief presentation of the story of the mission in which each of them was seriously injured. 

The captain of team Romania at the Invictus Games 2020 in The Hague, Lieutenant Florin Oprea, called the confidence vested in his team a "medicine." 

"To us, the fact that you vest your confidence in us and give us again the opportunity to represent Romania is the best medicine. Our courage to move forward, our desire to live every moment in life, the hope with which we see the future come mostly from you, those who have been and are still with us," he said. 

He also talked about his experience on the Invictus team. "Ever since I joined the Invictus project I have learned that being brave is not necessarily about climbing the highest mountains, or about moving them out. Often the courage is about moving forward each day, leaving behind the past and looking forward to the future. We all went through difficult times, through challenges that seemed unsurmountable until we had the courage to face them," said the lieutenant. 

Florin Oprea was wounded in 2016 on a patrol mission in Afghanistan. The vehicle in which he was patrolling hit an improvised explosive device, injuring him and three of his comrades. He was evacuated and hospitalised in Germany and after a month he asked to return to Afghanistan to continue on his mission. 

Team Romania for the Invictus Games has 20 members, plus nine substitutes. The members of the team are, beside Florin Oprea: Master Sergeant Dorel-Nicusor Bica (injured in 2011, in Afghanistan); Master Sergeant Florin Boc (found out he was suffering from leukemia on a mission abroad); Master Sergeant Iulian Constantin Capatana (injured in 2012, in Afghanistan); Master Sergeant Irinel Matei (injured in 2008, in Afghanistan); Master Sergeant Valeriu-Costinel Slaniceanu (injured in 2006, in Afghanistan); Master Sergeant Vasile Zbanca (injured in 2010, in Afghanistan); Sergeant First Class Emil-Florin Cojocaru (injured in 2009, Afghanistan); Sergeant First Class Marius Iovi (injured in 2007, in Iraq); Sergeant First Class Marian Nicula (wounded in 2011, in Afghanistan); Sergeant First Class Eduard-Vlad Romila (injured in 2009, in Afghanistan); Sergeant First Class Taifas Ion Marius Bertoni (injured in 2009, Afghanistan); Corporal Marius Canuci (injured in 2004, in Afghanistan); Corporal Uta-Valentin Ciolan (injured in 2015, in Afghanistan); Corporal Marcel Neagu (injured in 2016, in Afghanistan); retired Sergeant Major Eugen Manaila (injured in 2010, in Afghanistan); retired Sergeant Major Florin Vuta (injured in 2004, in Iraq); retired Sergeant Major Florin Bolovan (injured in 2006 in Afghanistan); retired Sergeant Major Angel Ilovan (injured in 2010, Afghanistan), and retired Sergeant Major Catalin Olteanu (injured in 2011, in Afghanistan). 

The nine substitutes are: Major Danu Nicola (wounded in 2007, in Iraq); Sergeant Major Mihai-Ion Toma (Injured in 2011, in Afghanistan); Master Sargent Cristian Hanganu (injured in 2005, in Afghanistan); Sergeant First Class Ilie Iordan (injured in 2011, in Afghanistan); Sergeant First Class Cristian Stoica (injured in 2015, in Afghanistan); Staff Sergeant Viorel Amzarescu (injured in 2014, during a multinational exercise in Germany); Staff Sergeant Sergiu Ola (injured in 2003, in Afghanistan); Corporal Dan-Cornel Craciun (injured in 2015, in Afghanistan); retired Sergean Major Costel Stanciu (injured in 2012, in Afghanistan). 

The Romanian soldiers will compete in the following events: athletics, swimming, cycling, sitting volleyball, archery, powerlifting, discus, shot put, handbike, indoor rowing. 

The Invictus Games were created by Prince Harry in 2014. Their purpose is to bring injured soldiers from around the world together for a major sporting event. 

From 1996 to 2019, 30 Romanian soldiers died while on duty in war zones, and about 180 were injured.


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