ORLANDO, Fla. -- The name Ulfat Al-Zwiri didn't even appear on a preliminary list of nearly 500 competitors for the 2016 Invictus Games.
But by the conclusion of the event, Prince Harry of England was praising her as a shining inspiration to thousands of spectators.
Al-Zwiri was the only woman among 17 competitors representing Jordan at the second edition of this international athletic festival for wounded, injured and ill military personnel and veterans. She didn't win a medal, but few will forget the impact she made here.
Al-Zwiri, 30, worked as a civilian chemist in a pathology lab for the Jordanian Army when she was involved in a car accident in 2009. She was left paralyzed below the waist and with limited use of her hands. She underwent an operation in 2011 that relieved some of the pressure on her spinal cord, but the procedure didn't make a big difference in her mobility.
Fast-forward to Tuesday, when she began practicing with a racing wheelchair provided by organizers -- the likes of which she had never seen before -- just a couple of days before the Invictus track and field competition. Given the opportunity to race against seven fit competitors in the women's 100-meter wheelchair race, she took it.
"I wanted to go out and see what I can do and what my limit is," she told ESPN.com through an interpreter. "Life should never stop after an injury. Life should go on."
Al-Zwiri said she felt like an amateur racing against professionals, but she was undaunted even as Kelly Elmlinger of the U.S. scorched across the finish line first in 20.61 seconds, edging out Jennifer Warren of the United Kingdom by .03 seconds.
Kirsty Wallace finished fifth (32.38), and her U.K. teammate Anna Pollock came in seventh (33.63). Al-Zwiri, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found.
"I looked way back, and she was still only halfway down the track," said Wallace, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. "I was like, 'Oh, that's not good. Let's go and cheer her on.' So I pushed back to the finish line. I couldn't go any farther because of the rules."
Pollock rolled back, as well, and the crowd began to react to Al-Zwiri fighting her way down the track. Wearing a white hijab, red helmet and neon yellow Jordan jersey, she relentlessly pounded out meter after meter, pausing several times to straighten her wheels. Some spectators stood up and cheered, and a few began chanting "Jor-dan, Jor-dan."
The chorus swelled as Al-Zwiri crossed the finish (2:08.15), where she was greeted by Wallace and Pollock. Al-Zwiri was simultaneously struck by her feat and the support from her two opponents. She didn't win a medal, but she captured something far more important: the hearts of the Invictus community.
Al-Zwiri was absolutely beaming.
"You can't fake a smile like that," Wallace said. "She was just enjoying being on that track with the rest of us."
The feat was as difficult as it looked. Al-Zwiri practiced for several months before the race, taking her standard wheelchair to a track in her home city of Amman. She modestly lifted weights to improve strength, but the combination of her hand impairment and an unfamiliar chair created a challenge.
"Race chairs are very delicate pieces of equipment," Wallace said. "They take a lot of getting used to. ... To get from a fairly chunky yet reliable piece of equipment into a specialized racing chair must have been incredibly scary for her."
Edward Oakden, the British ambassador to Jordan, shared the moment on Twitter.
- Edward Oakden (@EdwardOakden) May 11, 2016
Jordan teammate Hamzeh Al-Qudah, 28, competed in the men's 100- and 200-meter wheelchair races. He served in a tank division of the Jordanian Army and became paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident three years ago. Al-Qudah didn't receive the same kind of attention as Al-Zwiri or teammate Jehad Bani Omar, who won gold in the men's shot put, but it didn't appear to bother him a bit.
Al-Qudah smiled as he described his time at the Invictus Games through an interpreter, soaking up the experience and posing for a photo with a reporter. Even though Al-Qudah narrowly missed winning bronze in the 200, he said being welcomed into a respectful competitive community was everything he wanted.
"I was expecting a medal," he said. "In my eyes, I got one."
Invictus week got even better when Al-Zwiri and Al-Qudah learned they will each receive custom-built racing wheelchairs from Invacare, the company that supplied their loaners, so they can continue to train and compete.
By the time the Closing Ceremony was winding down, there was Invictus Games founder Prince Harry standing on stage at Champion Stadium telling the crowd how Al-Zwiri "fought inch by inch to the finish line." Soon after, fireworks exploded and thousands of people began slowly migrating to the ESPN Wide World of Sports park exits. Chatter could be heard in myriad languages, and many competitors could be spotted wearing the jersey of another nation after trading shirts with opponents-turned-friends.
The park complex grew relatively quiet as cleanup crews did their work and security officers walked away together after finishing their shifts. A few competitors and event staffers were still gathering belongings when Al-Zwiri and Al-Qudah rolled past a media room with members of their traveling party.
Al-Zwiri had the same bright smile from race day. She was wearing her hijab, and a Team USA jersey.
"This was the best experience of my life," she said.