Meghan Markle takes centre stage! Duchess presents medals to Invictus winners as Prince Harry joins in to hug Ukrainian war hero
Meghan Markle took centre stage on the final day of the Invictus Games as she presented medals to the swimming finalists – including one of the stars of the Netflix series about the military veterans taking part.
With Prince Harry joining in the ceremony the couple gave a group hug to Ukrainian war hero Yulia Payevska.
She has been one of most popular athletes at the games among the crowds who have attended the sports events.
The paramedic had been due to take part in last year’s games in The Hague in Holland but was was taken prisoner by the Russians.
She was released after three months and this week found success in the pool where she won a silver medal.
Payevska has folk hero status in the Ukraine and was responsible for smuggling out footage during the siege of Mariupol in 2022 much to anger of President Putin.
After her capture she was used in propaganda videos filmed by the Russians urging her country to surrender.
She found herself in solitary confinement with just half a glass of water to drink each day and no treatment for her thyroid and asthma conditions.
She was later moved into a women’s cell measuring 10ft by 20ft, where she says the captives were routinely beaten and tortured with electricity.
Attempts at a prisoner exchange failed but she was set free after three months in captivity describing the condition she was kept in as inhumane.
She was unable to compete in the 2022 Invictus Games and her daughter took her place.
Due to injuries she received while on a tour of duty as a medics she had both hips replaced and walks with the aid of the crutch.
Despite the trauma of her captivity, she says she is determined to carry on assisting Ukraine as it defends itself from continued Russian aggression.
Among other recipients of medals at the games was father-of-two Richard, from Cardiff, who joined the Royal Air Force at 21 in 2009 as he wanted to travel the world.
But in 2019 whilst stationed in Cyprus, he had an aircraft engine transportation trailer towed into the back of his foot, eventually resulting in an amputation in 2021.
In those two years he became unable to walk and ‘life became very grey’.
‘I felt pretty miserable being unable to do any of the things I enjoyed and missed out on so many family outings due to severe pain,’ he said.
‘I still have daily challenges and I, along with my family, have had to adapt to my new life as an amputee.’
He said getting back into sport, competing this year in swimming and archery, has made his life ‘colourful’ and he can be ‘a dad once again’.
‘I cannot wait to push myself and show others what I can do and create better understanding that losing a limb is not the end of the world,’ he said.
‘I’m incredibly proud to get to represent my country once again. Once I was out the RAF I wondered how and where in society I fitted.’
At the ceremony on Saturday, Meghan dazzled in a Cuyana jacket and pants matched with a white tank top and Lanvin earrings.
Harry was casually dressed in white shirt and grey trousers.
The couple gave each of the medal recipients a hug after presenting the military veterans with their medals.
They were only on stage for a brief time before leaving the stage in the Invictus village.
Veterans minister Johnny Mercer also took part in the medal ceremony.
Harry and Meghan will both be at the closing ceremony tonight where Rita Ora will perform six of her hits.
Meghan will take a back seat as only Harry will deliver a speech saluting those who have taken part and looking forward to the 2025 games in Canada.
Meghan was left teary eyed during the sixth day of the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf yesterday as she was spotted in footage wiping away tears at another medal ceremony for the veterans.
Poland was victorious over Colombia in the sitting volleyball final which the Duke and Duchess attended today alongside Veteran’s Minister Johnny Mercer and the many, many supporters.
Video footage captured the moment Meghan was moved to tears while the crowd continued to roar with applause after she hugged and chatted with the winning competitors who were presented with gold medals.
Prince Harry, who founded the games for veterans back in 2014, put a comforting arm around his wife as they put on a united front at the competition. Meanwhile the royal family avoided any reference to his 39th birthday.
Meghan also yesterday added her signature to a huge tribute wall filled with names – she chooses to place hers directly above a giant ‘Diana’ message.
The Duchesses’ well known ‘M’ is written very near where a fan has already written the name of the late Princess of Wales.
In the early days of her acting career, Meghan earned extra money by doing calligraphy – this is evident by the flare used to write her swirly ‘M’.
The wall appeared to be packed with colourful signatures, well-wishes and notes of encouragement from those attending and participating in the competition.