'I'd be crazy not to try': Invictus inspired this Canadian army corporal to compete in hometown

'I'd be crazy not to try': Invictus inspired this Canadian army corporal to compete in hometown

Michael Clarke "couldn't imagine sitting at home" watching the Invictus Games on his television.  

When the retired corporal, who served in the armoured corps of the Canadian Armed Forces, learned the week-long competition was landing in his hometown, he knew he had to compete. 

"That made my mind up. I thought I'd be crazy not to try," Clarke told CBC News at York Lions Stadium on Sunday before the men's 100-metre sprint.   

He is among 90 athletes representing Canada in 12 different adaptive sports.

The Invictus Games, which were launched by Prince Harry in 2014, aims to help wounded, injured and sick soldiers and veterans from 17 allied countries become inspired to recover and rehabilitate, while helping others gain a wider understanding and respect for those who serve in uniform.

Clarke's duty was cut short after a motorcycle accident in 1986 left him in a wheelchair due to a spinal injury. 

He hasn't been involved in the military since. 

"I've been out of the army for a long time and this is giving me a chance to reconnect with a lot of people I feel very, very comfortable with," he said. 

"There's a common bond between soldiers that is just understood. We all have the same background, we all have the same shared experience. That level playing field gives us a place to start from that sort of lets us understand each other and really make friends quickly." 

Clarke first enlisted in the Canadian military's reserve forces during high school. Upon graduation he enrolled as a crewman with the 8th Canadian Hussars military unit from Petawawa, Ont. 

He spent six years there operating tanks before he became paralyzed and was discharged. 

"We went to Victoria in April and that was the first time I had been on a military base in 30 years," he explained. 

"It just felt like I had done this the day before."

Clarke, who ran in the Boston Marathon and competed in other sporting events over the years, says the best thing about the Games is the comfort it provides. 

"When you do this by yourself, away from this sort of arena, you're one person who has this background amongst a sea of other people that don't really have that shared experience," he said. 

"This allows all levels of ability to come together in that sense of brotherhood and really get the fellowship, the comradeship, the accomplishment. You can look at people and say I'm going to be that someday or I'm going to show what I can do. I'm going to go out and I'm going to accomplish something.

"It really is something special."

Clarke is competing in two sporting events — athletics and cycling. 

He finished third in the men's 100-metre wheelchair dash during the first day of competition.