Team Georgia continued their dominance in sitting volleyball at the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 with a decisive gold-medal victory over the United Kingdom. The team was undefeated in the tournament, winning every set in their four matches on the road to gold.
Prince Harry awarded the gold medal to the Georgians in a rousing Medal Ceremony at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre. Georgia won the competition two sets to nil, winning 25–15 and 25–17. The gold adds to the team’s medal collection, having won bronze in Orlando in 2016.
Prince Harry with Team UK and Team Georgia winners.
Besarion Gudushauri, the captain of Team Georgia, was euphoric, saying “Prince Harry told us we were winners, and the Minister of Defense from Georgia also congratulated us.”
Besarion started playing sitting volleyball only two years ago. He was in the Georgian Army and involved in the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia when he was hit by artillery fire that took his leg off. Most of the players on the team are young, single or double leg amputees, who sustained their injuries during the 2008 war.
Gulad Todua, one of the Georgian sitting volleyball players, was in a body bag in a hospital because medics thought he was dead. When a mother of another soldier came along to identify her son, they accidentally unzipped the wrong body bag and discovered Gulad — who was still breathing.
Prince Harry listens in as the Georgian team talks strategy.
Besarion attributes his team’s win to their resilience. He commented, “In the beginning of the game, we were nervous and we didn’t play as we wanted to, but then we became stronger. We concentrated more on our game, thanks to our coach.”
Georgian coach, Richard Osborne, met the team at the Invictus Games 2014 in London.
Team Georgia’s coach, Richard Osborne, who is from the United Kingdom, met the Georgian team in London at the first Invictus Games in 2014. He was asked to give support to teams that didn’t have a coach. The Georgian team didn’t know much about sitting volleyball, but wanted to give it a go. Richard recruited six team members who had never played the sport before, and now they’re the first Georgian sitting volleyball team to win gold at the Invictus Games.
Previously, every time the Georgian team came up against the UK team, they lost. But this time they captured the gold, rolling through each set without a loss.
“What an honour for us that Prince Harry gave us our gold medals,” said Richard. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”