Prince Harry presents Canada's Julie Marcotte with gold medal in cycling

By Patricia Treble

“A prince hug.” That’s how Julie Marcotte described getting a warm embrace from Prince Harry at the medal ceremony for the women’s recumbent cycling event at the Invictus Games. Despite the scorching heat in Toronto on Tuesday (Sept. 26), the Canadian athlete flew past her rivals to snap up her first gold medal at the games. Julie told HELLO! that she was so concerned over riding a new bicycle in the race, she didn't notice the heat or Prince Harry's presence on the sidelines.

TAP FOR GALLERY Harry congratulates Julie Marcotte on winning gold.

It was her daughter Cloee Embregts, 13, who informed Julie of the royal spectator. “Mum, did you know Prince Harry is here? I got pictures!” Harry had been standing by the track near the finish line, near Cloee, watching cyclists zoom down the straightaway.

Five minutes before the medal ceremony, Julie found out it would be Harry handing out her event’s medals. “Congratulations. That was awesome,” he said as he placed the gold medal around her neck, followed by a bear hug and a handshake.

It’s been a long struggle for the Quebec native to reach this finish line. She broke vertebrae in her spine during a training accident in the military and suffered from chronic pain. Then came the chance to train for the Invictus Games. She chose the recumbent bicycle, as it didn’t affect her numb left leg. Before getting the low-slung bicycle, she’d never gone for a bike ride with Chloee. It was her daughter who pushed her during those long months of training in the family’s living room (the bicycle is so low that she finds it dangerous to ride on the road). “If I wasn’t going fast enough, she’d turn off the TV,” and urge her to speed up" recalled Julie.

The Invictus Games got her back in shape, outside, and playing sports with her daughter. And the opportunity to meet Prince Harry. As for that hug, Julie smiles brightly, “That was perfect.”

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