Meghan Markle took center stage on the final day of the Invictus Games as she presented medals to swimming finalists, including one of the stars of the Netflix series about participating veterans.
With Prince Harry joining the ceremony, the couple hugged Ukrainian war heroine Yulia Payevska.
She was one of the most popular athletes at the games among the crowds who attended the sporting events.
The paramedic was due to take part in last year’s games in The Hague, Netherlands, but was taken prisoner by the Russians.
She was released after three months and this week enjoyed success in the pool where she won a silver medal.
The Duchess of Sussex pictured during a medal ceremony at the 2023 Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany
Yulia Paievska receives Invictus Games medal from Prince Harry and Meghan
Harry and Meghan congratulate Yulia “Taira” Paievska during the swimming medal ceremony on day seven of the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023, September 16, 2023.
Meghan (right) dazzled in a Cuyana jacket and pants paired with a white tank top and Lanvin earrings
Volunteer paramedic Yulia Paievska, 53, was kidnapped by Russian soldiers in March while on her way to treat injured members of the public after a bomb attack on a theater in Mariupol.
Payevska has folk hero status in Ukraine and was responsible for the clandestine distribution of footage during the 2022 siege of Mariupol, much to the dismay of President Putin.
After her capture, she was used in propaganda videos shot by the Russians urging her country to surrender.
Attempts to exchange prisoners failed, but she was released after three months in captivity, calling the conditions in which she was held inhumane.
She was unable to compete in the 2022 Invictus Games and her daughter took her place.
Due to injuries she sustained during a tour of duty as a doctor, she has had both hips replaced and walks with the aid of the crutch.
Other medal recipients at the games included father-of-two Richard, from Cardiff, who joined the Royal Air Force aged 21 in 2009 as he wanted to travel the world.
But in 2019, while stationed in Cyprus, he had an airplane engine transport trailer towed on the back of his foot, ultimately leading to an amputation in 2021.
During those two years, he became unable to walk and “life became very gray.”
“I felt quite unhappy not being able to do any of the things I loved and missing so many family outings because of severe pain,” he said.
“I still have daily challenges and I and my family have had to adapt to my new life as an amputee.”
He said getting back into sport, taking part in swimming and archery this year, had made his life “colourful” and he could be “a dad again”.
“I look forward to pushing myself and showing others what I can do and better understanding that losing a limb is not the end of the world,” he said.
“I am incredibly proud to be able to represent my country again. Once out of the RAF, I wondered how and where I fit into society.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex present medals at a swimming medal ceremony on Saturday.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle present medals at the Invictus Games 2023, Merkur Spiel Arena, Düsseldorf
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during a medal ceremony at the Invictus Games in Düsseldorf on Saturday September 16, 2023
At Saturday’s ceremony, Meghan dazzled in a Cuyana jacket and pants matched with a white tank top and Lanvin earrings.
Harry was dressed casually in a white shirt and gray pants.
The couple hugged each of the medal recipients after presenting their medals to the veterans.
They only stayed on stage briefly before leaving the Invictus Village stage.
Minister of Veterans Affairs Johnny Mercer also participated in the medal ceremony.
Both Harry and Meghan will attend the closing ceremony this evening 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 participated and looking forward to the 2025 games in Canada.
Meghan was left teary-eyed during day six of the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf yesterday as she was seen in footage wiping away tears during another medal ceremony for veterans.
Poland were victorious over Colombia in the sitting volleyball final which the Duke and Duchess attended today alongside Veterans Affairs Minister Johnny Mercer and scores of supporters.
Video footage captured the moment Meghan was moved to tears as the crowd continued to roar with applause after she hugged and chatted with the winning competitors who received gold medals.
Prince Harry, who founded the veterans games in 2014, put a comforting arm around his wife as they stood together at the competition. Meanwhile, the royal family has avoided any reference to her 39th birthday.
On day six of the Invictus Games, Meghan Markle writes her signature on a huge tribute wall filled with names
The duchesses’ well-known “M” is written very close to where someone had already scribbled the same name as the late Princess of Wales.
Meghan also added her signature to a huge tribute wall filled with names yesterday – she chose to place hers directly above a giant “Diana” message.
The duchesses’ well-known “M” is written very close to where a fan once wrote the name of the late Princess of Wales.
Early in her acting career, Meghan earned extra money doing calligraphy – this is evident by the style used to write her swirly “M”.
The wall seemed filled with colorful signatures, well wishes and notes of encouragement from those who attended and participated in the competition.