Proud family and friends of Canada’s elite veteran athletes gathered today to give the team a hero’s sendoff as they departed to Australia for this year’s Invictus Games.

Forty athletes will represent Canada in Sydney from October 20 to 27, competing alongside more than 500 competitors from a record 18 nations, including the U.S., U.K., Poland and New Zealand.

Team Canada is made up of 18 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and 22 veterans, who acquired an illness or a physical or mental health injury while serving their country.

Team members were selected from across Canada and will compete in 11 sports including archery, track and field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, wheelchair rugby and a driving challenge.

Michael Burns, former chief executive of the Invictus Games, led the event in Toronto last year.

“In a world full of fake icons we were all reminded of what real heroes look like,” he said.

Burns joked that the team would be greeted Down Under by a husband and wife expecting their first child -- the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Harry and Meghan sat together at the games in Canada’s biggest city in 2017, just a few months before they announced their engagement in November last year.

The games were founded by Prince Harry in 2014. Invictus is Latin for undefeated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also welcomed the athletes at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. They are being flown to the southern hemisphere by Air Canada.

Trudeau tweeted: “Game on. Our wounded warriors are ready to battle at at Invictus Sydney. Good luck Team Canada – we’ll all be cheering for you!”

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan described the athletes as “rockstars” who would inspire Canadians to take on their own challenges.

“Each and every one of us here has earned the right to be on Team Canada through sacrifice, perseverance, dedication and an inspiring ability to keep moving forward through tough times,” added Team Canada captain Robert Hicks.

“Together we are invictus and we’re going to go down there and kick some butt.”

The participation of Team Canada in the Invictus Games is made possible through the Canadian Armed Forces’ Soldier On program, in partnership with Veterans Affairs Canada, the Province of Ontario and the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 organizing committee.