When Ulfat Al-Zwiri began wheelchair racing, it felt overwhelmingly unfamiliar, but she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. After competing in the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 — where she had cheering spectators on their feet as she finished the 100-metre race more than a minute behind the other competitors — Ulfat was inspired to undertake intense physiotherapy and muscle training upon returning home to Jordan.
“The difference is clear this year at the Invictus Games. I am faster. I am stronger. The results in Toronto prove it,” said Ulfat, through an interpreter. The 32-year-old took home two medals: a bronze in the women’s IT5 100m and a silver in indoor rowing. Just like in Orlando, her performances won hearts in Toronto. She wears the medals around her neck with a smile so contagious you can’t help but beam back.
“I am very happy to be an influencer. Especially to be told, ‘You’re my inspiration, you’re my inspiration’. To be regarded in such light by people makes me very happy, thrilled and proud” she said.
Ulfat worked for the Jordanian Army when a car accident left her with limited use of her hands and paralyzed below the waist. She is one of two women on Jordan’s 17-member team.
“At first, when I had my injury, I was upset, I was angry. Now that I’m taking part in Invictus, I understand there is a purpose. There is a meaning and a reason why. I saw that eventually I could become an inspiration using the platform that is Invictus. There is always good that can come from something bad,” explained Ulfat.
Ulfat is supported in Toronto by her brother, Hamza, and at home by her mother and father.
“My brother and my parents, they have been so encouraging. They are essentially my morale booster,” said Ulfat. “I am so proud they can see me in this light and they are happy with my achievement.”
Now that Ulfat is finished her competitions in Toronto, she looks forward to getting to know the city and cheering on competitors from all nations. When she returns home, she plans to continue sport, including one of her new favourites, table tennis.
“After Invictus, I’m definitely going to keep doing my sport, training and rehabilitation. I don’t know whether I will take part in future Invictus Games, but regardless I will continue being physically active because I believe that sport strengthens you physically and emotionally. Especially through Invictus, I realize the spirit of fight and perseverance through sport,” she said. “People must not stop when they reach a difficult situation or circumstance. Ultimately it is the start of opportunity — of being able to persevere and give back.”