Prince Harry said he was “looking forward” to the 2016 Invictus Games as he unveiled the UK team chosen to compete in the sporting spectacle.
He joked and laughed with the squad when they joined him for a photocall at Buckingham Palace ahead of the Games, which will be held in Orlando, Florida, in May.
He has been the driving force behind the Paralympics-style event since London hosted the inaugural Games in 2014 to great acclaim from competitors and spectators.
It aims to challenge wounded, sick or injured service personnel, and those who have left the armed forces, to strive for sporting excellence.
On the Palace’s windswept and rainy forecourt, Harry chatted to team members, with only a few missing from the total of 110.
He told one group of competitors: “I’m looking forward to it.” He then asked “You’ve all got your training regimes?” before adding: “Don’t peak (too early).”
Harry also made a friend when black Labrador Jester rolled over next to his owner, wheelchair user Jon Flint, 40, a former Royal Marine who has a spinal injury, and the Prince bent down to give the dog a belly rub.
Former Army Captain David Wiseman was named as the 2016 captain, taking over from Dave Henson, who led the UK team for the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014.
He joined Harry for a formal moment when the Prince presented the Invictus flag to US team captain Will Reynolds, signifying the handover of the Games from former host city London to Orlando.
Speaking about how much the Prince’s support means to the team, Wiseman said: “Prince Harry was a driving force in bringing the Games to life. He’s got a genuine passion about veterans and members of the armed forces – you can see that in his work with the Endeavour Fund – he totally believes in this and his support is fantastic for their recovery.”
The former Army officer has a bullet lodged in his right lung after being shot in the chest while leading a patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2009. He both worked for and competed in the 2014 Games and said 60% of those who make up the present team were new faces.
Harry is already focused on the next Invictus Games, which will be held in Toronto in 2017, and it was announced that he will travel to the Canadian city on May 2 to attend a number of engagements marking the official launch of the countdown to the third Games.
He will then fly to Florida to take part in the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup on May 4, hosted at Valiente Polo Farm in Wellington.
From there, he will move to Orlando, where he will be based for the Invictus Games, which are being staged from May 8-12.