The pace for athletics was as hot as the record-breaking temperatures at York Lions Stadium, as competition got underway in multiple events. The first day of wheelchair races saw American Ivan Sears set a blistering pace on the track, capturing three gold medals in the IT4 100-metre, 200-metre and 400-metre races.

Laura Wright

Ivan raced to victory against Andrew Bracey of the United Kingdom and American teammate Anthony McDaniel, who both finished second and third, respectively, in the three races.

This was Ivan’s second Invictus Games. Born in California and raised in Texas, the 27-year-old marine enlisted in 2008 and is still on active duty. The former infantryman recently became a small-arms technician. On October 7, 2010, while serving in Afghanistan, an IED blast took both his legs.

“My coach got me into wheelchair racing. He went to a Marine Corps trials camp and said, ‘Do you want to try this out?’ I said ‘It looks kinda funny, but I’ll try it out.’ And I just fell in love with it,” said Ivan.

His love of the sport is obvious today. “I’m also doing wheelchair rugby and indoor rowing,” added the tireless competitor, who calls track his “go-to sport.”

Ivan is joined in Toronto by his mom, dad and younger sisters. So far they’re enjoying Toronto. “Everybody’s so friendly, so positive,” he says of his experience. “If they don’t have the information, they’ll at least help you try to get it. If you look lost, they’ll try to help you find where you’re going.”

The seasoned para-athlete has participated in the Marine Corps trials, Military World Games in South Korea, national championships and Paralympic tryouts. He will race for gold again in the 1,500-metre race on Monday.

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