A touching welcome greeted Team Australia as it touched down in Düsseldorf in readiness for the sixth Invictus Games, which kick off on September 9.
The 31 competitors, along with staff members, family and friends, who arrived on an Air Force KC-30A aircraft, were cheered through the airport by hundreds of volunteers.
Chef de Mission Brigadier Phil Winter said he had seen a few airport receptions but couldn’t think of any better.
“Not just the number of people greeting us, but the vibe and the genuine hospitality we received,” he said.
“The genuine friendship and welcome we got from the people of Düsseldorf was terrific.”
The welcome was particularly touching for the tired troupe of Aussies, who had spent about 24 hours in the air over two days to travel the 16,500-kilometre journey from Sydney.
Among those moved by the occasion was Verity Sanchez, who served in the Australian Army for 17 years before being medically discharged in 2014.
“We were pretty tired but our spirits lifted when we came into the airport and they were all cheering for us,” Ms Sanchez said.
“Seeing the dogs and having a pat of the dogs was so good, and the mascot was there.
“They were so welcoming.”
Despite the long journey the Aussies looked pumped, moving through the airport in the trademark green and gold as a group.
“The trip over was really good,” Brigadier Winter said.
“We had great support from the Air Force and it was great to see a whole bunch of family and friends that we hadn’t seen before.
“This is the biggest contingent we have ever taken.”
The day after landing, the Australian competitors enjoyed a rest day ahead of training at Düsseldorf’s Merkur Spiel-Arena.
“I’m really looking forward to actually seeing the arena and getting onto the track tomorrow morning really early,” Ms Sanchez said.
“It’s going to be really exciting to step out onto the track for the first time and to start preparing there.
“I’ve seen some footage and photos of the swimming pool, so I’m really looking forward to getting wet.”
The Invictus Games is an international sporting event for current and former-serving military personnel who are wounded, injured or ill in body or soul.
The Games use the power of sport to support recovery, rehabilitation and generate wider understanding and respect for those who served their country.
Under the motto “a home for respect”, Düsseldorf, together with the German Federal Armed Forces, is welcoming about 550 competitors from 21 nations as well as about 1000 family members and friends.
Team Australia competitors will be participating in individual and team sports, including athletics, archery, cycling, indoor rowing, sitting volleyball, swimming, powerlifting, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and table tennis.