Harry inspires at Invictus

Wounded soldiers from several countries shook hands, conversed and shared a laugh with Prince Harry on Friday as the royal readied to launch the Invictus Games in Toronto this weekend.

The Games, a multi-sport event for injured and sick soldiers, including current and veteran members of the forces, run until Sept. 30 and are being hosted in Canada for the first time.

Harry founded the Games in 2014 as a way to inspire and motivate wounded soldiers on their paths to recovery. For participants training at a Toronto arena on the eve of the event, the royal's approach appears to be working.

"We're using the Games to get out of dark holes and back into life — and without Harry, we wouldn't be here having fun and enjoying the camaraderie, which is what you miss from the army days," said Charlie Walker, a coach of the United Kingdom's sitting volleyball team.

Walker, who was with the British army's bomb disposal unit, lost both his feet after contracting meningitis. He got a chance to have a solo chat with Harry for five minutes on Friday.

They spoke about the team, the sport, the Games, and how Walker was doing, he said.

Nearby, Canadian athlete Gaetan Lortie, a veteran of the Canadian Forces and a retired civil servant with the Department of National Defence, said: "These games got me going again, got me active."

"I think the Games give us the opportunity to push ourselves, to prove to ourselves we are still capable, still able people," Lortie said.

On Saturday, Harry will visit Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health before meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Later in the evening he will attend the Games' opening ceremony at the Air Canada Centre, which will feature performances by Sarah McLachlan, Alessia Cara and the Tenors.

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