Tears welled in Ihaka Matairangi's eyes as he watched a man with no arms or legs compete at the Toronto Invictus Games 1500m event last year in Canada.
"I couldn't believe how proud I was of this man I didn't even know," the former Flaxmere man said.
"For those few moments when they're running that race and crossing that line, you see people just glow. It is magic."
Now a Royal New Zealand Navy Petty Officer, Matairangi will be representing the NZDF in the Invictus Games in Australia this year.
But for him, it's not about the medals.
"Just getting to the starting line is a win for some of the competitors. You just get total acceptance as soon as you walk through the door.
"Everyone on that level is the same - you've got so much commonality because of the experiences and the life-changing events that have happened to each individual."
Matairangi took a team bronze in archery at the Toronto Invictus Games and will compete once again, including events such as sailing and discus.
The games are the only international adaptive sporting event for the wounded, injured and ill active duty and former service members.
Matairangi's life changing event struck him in his mid-20s, when he was diagnosed with lung and testicular cancer.
It left him with significantly reduced lung capacity and took him several years to get back to the level of fitness required by the Navy.
This year's event will take place in Sydney from October 20-27 and will involve competitors from 18 allied nations in 11 different adaptive sports.
Matairangi still has ties to Hawke's Bay as his parents, Errol and Annette live in Flaxmere.
His father travelled to Toronto with him last year to watch him compete.
His brothers, Joshua, Rongomai and Jay Pomana still live in Hawke's Bay, while his sisters Tahlya and Vida live in Australia and Wellington.
Matairangi's wife Emma and their three children will travel to Sydney to watch him compete in October.