Prince Harry's beard envy over Whittle-le-Woods army veteran Jonny 'Mitch' Mitchell at the Invictus Games

Jonny Mitchell competing in powerlifting
Jonny Mitchell competing in powerlifting
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It’s not every day you get to meet Prince Harry - or even have your beard stroked by him.

Aside from his daughter being born and marrying his sweetheart, Jonny Mitchell describes the Invictus Games as “the greatest time of my life.”

Jonny Mitchell with his medal

Jonny Mitchell with his medal

The 32-year-old, who goes by the name of Mitch, was selected as captain of the powerlifting team and earned a bronze.

His efforts did not go unnoticed by Prince Harry, who set up the Invictus Games in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel take part in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and indoor rowing.

Mitch was picked to give interviews alongside Prince Harry and the Royal was certainly no stranger.

Read more: Army hero Jonathan is ready for the future

Whittle-le-Woods resident Mitch said: “I did an interview live on TV with Prince Harry and spoke to him at a private function. I spent a bit of time with him, which was nice as he is a top bloke.

Jonny Mitchell with Prince Harry and fellow Invictus competitors

Jonny Mitchell with Prince Harry and fellow Invictus competitors

“We talked about the games and he stroked my beard.”

Mitch was medically discharged from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers after he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in 2012.

He was given an eight percent chance of survival but defied the odds and now has a bronze medal in powerlifting.

He says: “I had been training in powerlifting for Great Britain and the army before I was diagnosed with cancer.

Jonny Mitchell with his daughter Poppy

Jonny Mitchell with his daughter Poppy

“Every ex-wounded or injured soldiers want to hold onto the army and the Invictus Games is my way of coping with leaving.

“It has helped me in every single way - emotionally, psychologically and physically. I am a lot happier and part of this is down to the Invictus community. Bar my daughter being born and my wedding, it was the greatest time of my life.

“I had never been before and it was made extra special by being picked as the powerlifting team captain. It was a massive honour.

“I managed the team, supporting them and getting them ready to go on stage. If they were down, I helped to pick them up. I made sure I was there for them.

Jonny Mitchell with his team mates

Jonny Mitchell with his team mates

“The bronze medal was unexpected but I would not have done it without my coach Ben Richens.

“It was the best time of my life. It breaks my heart thinking I am not still there.

“Words cannot express how amazing the experience is. We have a WhatsApp group where we reminisce and listen to all the Invictus songs.

“It is not about the sport or the medals. It is about recovery and getting on the right track in every aspect of life.”

Mitch, who works in health and safety in construction, is now planning on attending the games in 2020 in Holland.

He adds: “I am taking part in more competitions, getting myself ready for the trials next year. I have decided to do shot put and discus next time.

Jonny Mitchell with his wife Lisa

Jonny Mitchell with his wife Lisa

“This was my first event but next time I will know how it all works and I can help more people.

“The Invictus Games are not the end. It is all about the beginning of our recovery and I am using it as a platform to get into more powerlifting clubs.

“I have spoken to veterans who wanted to end their own life but the Invictus Games has given them hope and helped them turn things around. The battles for a soldier are just as hard outside the army and that never goes away,

“I also know of soldiers who have been inspired to train and do the games after watching it this time.

“It is a tough process to go through to get picked, but it is incredible.”

Mitch, who attends rehabilitation sessions at Cyro Therapy in Blackburn, adds his cancer is incurable and is always at the back of his mind.

He says: “Unfortunately the cancer hibernates and will not go away. There is no cure with my leukaemia. We are always expecting it to come back but all I can do is keep as fit as I can and live each day to the max.”