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The Warriors of Wheelchair Rugby: Jackie Buttnor

Written By: Chris Perotte

All year, Canada has been celebrating its 150th anniversary of Confederation. Canada’s anniversary has been a great opportunity to celebrate our rich history and the freedom that we share as a nation. One of the reasons we are able to celebrate the luxury of freedom is because of the brave men and women who fought and continue to fight on our behalf. The Invictus Games in Toronto highlighted our Canadian wounded, ill, or injured servicemen, women and veterans. 

The Invictus Games was held from September 23 to 30 and was of great importance to many who participated in this special event – people like Jackie Buttnor.

“These games have been amazingly important. It has given us as injured and ill veterans a team to focus on again and a sense of purpose that for me has been missing for over 13 years,” shares Buttnor.

Fifty-year-old Jackie Buttnor from Ridgetown, Ontario served 14 years as a Medical Technician and retired as a Corporal from the Canadian Armed Forces. Participating in the Invictus Games gave Buttnor an opportunity to still serve.  It has meant that she wasn't so broken that she could no longer contribute.  To competing athletes, the Invictus Games signify that through the challenging times of self recovery, one is not alone in the struggle and can find a way.

For Buttnor, the Invictus Games in Toronto came to her attention through Soldier On, a physical activity and sports program designed by the Canadian Armed Forces to help and support veterans and serving members who are working to overcome their mental or permanent physical health injuries.  It was through this program that Buttnor received an email about the Invictus Games and decided to give it try.

Buttnor participated in three events at the Invictus Games Toronto: Powerlifting, Stationary Rowing, and Wheelchair Rugby.  She chose wheelchair rugby because she wanted to be a part of a team sport.

“I had never played Rugby before in my life, but the first time I fell in love with wheelchair rugby was at our first practice in Esquimalt, [British Columbia],” said Buttnor. “One of our teammates had played before, and decided to show us just what we could do. He got into the hitting circle and I was electrified. The passion, focus and determination drew me in like a nail to loadstone [magnetic rock].”

Buttnor played the defensive position for Team Canada in the wheelchair rugby matches.  Playing the game for the first time, Buttnor found the experience of using the wheelchair one of the big challenges of the game. 

Despite the challenges, Buttnor found the overall experience of the Invictus Games in Toronto more than she could have ever imagined.  She created a lot of fond memories at the games that will last a lifetime, but one memorable moment stands out above the rest.

“Walking into the lobby of the hotel, after getting my [silver] medal in Powerlifting, and being met by 15 or 20 of my [Team Canada] teammates has to be the biggest and best memory of so many,” says Buttnor.

Buttnor was also thrilled to have the support of her family at the Invictus Games.

Having enjoyed the tremendous atmosphere and comradery of her teammates and all those who supported her and Team Canada at the games, Buttnor has already submitted her application for next year’s Invictus Games set to take place in Sydney. 

“I would love to be a mentor for the new members. But, I have no expectations at this point,” said Buttnor.

The Invictus Games created a ripple effect across this nation as we proudly watched our men and women represent our country.  We look forward to 2018 in Sydney, where our Canadian soldiers will represent our country with pride and play the games they love.

As the “Invictus” poem by William Ernest Henley states:

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”