Harry hails 'world class' sprinter Dave Henson after Invictus Games win


Prince Harry has declared Invictus Games sprinter Dave Henson "world class" after the double-amputee ran the best T42 200-metre time in the world this year.

The former Army captain had confidently predicted he would "smash" his personal best and did not let the hundreds of cheering fans down - including Harry who rushed out of his seat to congratulate the athlete.

As he walked down to the track the prince, who has been the driving force behind the Paralympic-style competition for injured military and veterans, said: "He smashed his personal best, he's world class".

When the pair met behind the stands they hugged and Harry told Henson - who was the UK team captain during the first games: "It was a completely different look to London - you were gliding."

And when the medal presentation was held the pair embraced again as the former officer wrapped himself in the Union flag as he celebrated his time of 25.04 seconds - more than a second faster than his previous best.

His impressive win came on the second day of the Invictus Games, being staged in Orlando, Florida, which will be held in Toronto next year and looks likely to be staged in Australia in 2018.

Sir Keith Mills, the chairman of the Invictus Games Foundation, who oversaw the inaugural London games in 2014, said: "We haven't actually signed the contract yet, but the rumour is that in 2018 the Invictus Games might just be taking place in Australia."

When the ex-Army officer, who lost his legs when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011, crossed the finish line Harry jumped up from his seat cheering and clapping.

Henson said about his win: "I felt good, I felt strong, comfortable - I've been out here for a little while and my training's all been going really well so happily everything was where it needed to be."

Commenting on his brief chat with Harry he said: "Harry said I was gliding, it was just a comment on my form, basically I look a lot more relaxed, a lot more natural."

He added: "This is one big family, everybody's in it together, when you cross the finish line everyone celebrates everyone else's success.

"That success comes in different forms, it might be the person who's managed to get round the 400 metres or it might be the person who's won a gold medal, we're all very much here for each other.

"The 2016 games are special there's no doubt about that and it's special in a different way to London. There's very much of a family feel, everybody's a bit more connected." 

Former Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie watched the Invictus athletes compete, at the ESPN Wide Word of Sports complex, on the same track he is training British sprinters who are hoping to make the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

He said about Invictus: "It's a great idea to make our injured servicemen and women feel that they're still appreciated."

The former sportsman was impressed by performance of the runners: "Some of the guys are fast, they go through the same emotions that we go through - it brings back memories. I look at the guys and they've got lactic (acid) but they're pushing and persevering - it's good.

"It's just an amazing atmosphere, the crowds are brilliant because they are cheering everybody."

During the games, more than 500 competitors from countries including Italy, Germany, Australia, Estonia, Jordan and the UK and Afghanistan are competing in 10 events - archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, athletics, wheelchair basketball, rugby and tennis.

Harry has said he hopes to bring Invictus to the UK in 2019, completing a five-venue cycle which would see the games return home after being staged in Canada next year and Australia in 2018.

Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe, who is an ambassador for the Orlando games, has been supporting competitors and said his home nation would welcome the games in two years time.

He said: "I think Australia is excited for it, for us we'd love to have more events in the country - I think there will probably be cities in Australia that will end up fighting over it.

"Looking at this going to Canada next, I think Australia would love to support something like this, with Australia being such a sports-mad country - any excuse for more sport."