With his wife and seven-year-old daughter in the stands, major Laurentiu Serban won Romania’s first-ever Invictus Games medal on Monday. The team captain won bronze in the men’s IT1 1,500-metre run with a time of 5:47.71. This is Romania’s first time competing in the Invictus Games.
“My adversaries on the track were about 70 metres in front of me when they crossed the final line, but I have reason to be proud. My work in the past five months was successful,” he said. Laurentiu, who is competing at a sporting event for the first time, has been training hard with his teammates, often going on 5-kilometre runs.
While he is proud to win Romania’s first Invictus Games medal, the Games are about much more than awards for Laurentiu. “I enjoyed especially the spirit. You could see, with the public, that not only the people who won the race were cheered. The ones who [did not medal] but didn’t quit were also cheered. This is what I like about Invictus. This is the spirit of Invictus. Never quit. Even if you are down — get up and continue your race,” he explained. Laurentiu went on to praise Ukraine’s Vadym Svyrydenko, who displays the Invictus spirit as a quadruple amputee competing in multiple sports.
Laurentiu is an active duty member of the Romania Army, where he has served for 16 years. During a 2006 mission in Afghanistan, he lost his right leg while trying to evacuate injured colleagues from a military vehicle that had been attacked by an improvised explosive device.
His daughter, Laura, was born after the incident. “She knows something about war and what happened to me. But now [at the Invictus Games] she’s seen other soldiers with more injuries than me so she understands better,” said the 38-year-old. “I’m sure she better understands now what I went through. Seeing other wounded soldiers, she knows I’m not the only one without a leg.”
Laurentiu and his family have a few days to further explore Toronto before returning home to Bucharest. From the first day they arrived, they have enjoyed their visit, which has included a ride up the CN Tower and a trip to Niagara Falls. “When we first came off the bus, there were nine people in traditional Romanian clothes, with Romanian flags, welcoming us. It made us feel like we were home,” he said. “I would like to thank volunteers, sponsors, donors for their support and everything they did for us here.”
Laurentiu also has a special thank you for HRH the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles — the father of the founder of the Games, Prince Harry. To train for the Invictus Games, Laurentiu required a prosthetic running leg and Team Romania needed two hand bikes. “Through the Prince of Wales’s Foundation Romania, he purchased these items for us,” said Laurentiu. “For that, I want to express my gratitude. His act helped us to represent Romania and achieve good results.”