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Duke, Duchess join veterans for wheelchair curling in Vancouver

Prince Harry and Meghan are ambassadors for the 2025 Vancouver/Whistler Invictus Games

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As a curling skip, it would be a lot of fun to have the Duke of Sussex and Michael Bublé as your teammates.

Their draw weight while seated in a wheelchair left a lot to be desired, but both Prince Harry and Bublé had their takeout weight down pat on Friday to mark the coming 2025 Invictus Games, hosted by Vancouver and Whistler in collaboration with four First Nations: the Lil̓wat7úl (Líl̓wat), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh).

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“We are officially one year out to the Vancouver Whistler Invictus Games 2025 and there is a reason the Invictus Games have come back to Canada,” the prince said. “The last few days have been incredible — very, very special.

“It’s been our first opportunity to have some friends, some family and some competitors with coaches to be able to try out (Invictus sports) and, in some instances, to be on snow for the first time.

“And I’ll tell you what, the smiles I’ve seen on faces the past few days proves why we do what we do.”

The prince launched the first Invictus Games in March 2014. The word invictus is Latin for unconquered, and the competitors are wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.

The 2025 Invictus, the first time winter sports have been included since the Games began, is scheduled for Feb. 6-15, 2025. It will feature more than 500 competitors from 20 nations competing in adaptive sports such as alpine and nordic skiing, skeleton, sitting volleyball, wheelchair versions of rugby and basketball, and, yes, wheelchair curling.

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Michael Bublé and Prince Harry watch Marney Smithies during a wheelchair curling demonstration at Vancouver’s Hillcrest Community Centre to promote the 2025 Invictus Games. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103846A

Prior to the prince and the crooner taking their shots, wheelchair curler Marney Smithies from the Delta Thistle Curling Club demonstrated how to go about delivering a stone from a wheelchair.

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Smithies, 55, has been in a wheelchair for 40 years and her club is the only curling rink in the Lower Mainland with a wheelchair league, although interested neophytes of wheelchair curling are welcome to drop in at the Vancouver Curling Club’s Wednesday afternoon beginners’ sessions.

“We play on Sundays (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) and anyone is welcome to drop in. We’ll give you some lessons. It’s free, so no excuses.”

Wheelchair curling differs from the Brier and Tournament of Hearts version in obvious ways, such as the player delivering the rock being stationary and not sliding behind the stone as it leaves her hand, but also in the way the ice is pebbled.

Smithies threw her first rock five years ago.

“Many of us have just learned the game recently. We even have a wheelchair you can borrow. When I first started, I thought it would be really boring, but everyone is so welcoming and there’s so much strategy to it, it’s not boring at all.

“And it’s really fun.”

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Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, at Hillcrest in Vancouver. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103846A

As Bublé readied to deliver his first rock, Prince Harry warned the throng of photographers standing at the side of the sheet of ice to beware: “Trust me, I saw him try this earlier.”

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To which Bublé replied: “Prepare to see the hometown boy do well, with a clockwise twist.” (His rock sailed through the rings.)

So how does Smithie rate Harry’s and Bublé’s curling skills?

“They’re pretty darn good for never having played before,” Smithies said. “They did great. It was fun to watch them (kibitzing with each other).

“They were just like a couple of regular guys.”

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Prince Harry, and Michael Bublé during a wheelchair Curling demonstration at Hillcrest Community Centre to promote the Invictus Games which are one year away, in Vancouver, B.C., on February 16, 2024. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103846A

In November, the Duke and Duchess attended a Canucks game in Vancouver, where the Prince dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff, just like his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II had done 21 years earlier.

That’s where Chief Wayne Sparrow of Musqueam Nation first met the Duke and Duchess.

“The very first time I talked to Prince Harry, he said, ‘I want to know all about reconciliation.’ And that means a lot to me,” Sparrow said. “He’s serious. He wants to know about the wrong-doings and how they can be (rectified) going forward.

“It means more to me than the Olympics, because it’s the Crown and the commitments made to First Nations.”

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Prince Harry, during a wheelchair curling demonstration at Hiillcrest Community Centre to promote the Invictus Games which are one year away, in Vancouver, B.C., on February 16, 2024. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103846A
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Prince Harry grimaces during a wheelchair curling demonstration at Hiillcrest Community Centre to promote the Invictus Games which are one year away, in Vancouver, B.C., on February 16, 2024. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /10103846A

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