The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs - where the dreams of some of this country’s greatest Olympic & Paralympic heroes have be woven - opened its arms in dramatic fashion Monday as the fitting backdrop to a ceremonious welcome of 187 servicemembers taking part in the inaugural Warrior Games, presented by Deloitte.
The event pits wounded, ill and injured military personnel from all five service branches against one another in the sports of archery, cycling, track & field, swimming, shooting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
The day began with the Rolling Thunder motorcyclists raising the American Flag as they arrived in Colorado Springs following a five-day trek across the country with flags flown over military locations around the globe, including the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Korea’s demilitarized zone and Germany’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Rolling Thunder also carried flags that flew over Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Rolling Thunder members transported the flags here from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City, and also paid their respects at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Penn. Each of the flags will be flown for one day during the five-day competition.
Later in the day, the athletes of these Games marched down the Irwin “Ike” Belk Olympic Path to the cheers of the hundreds of friends, family and citizens in attendance. And in true Olympic fashion, following close behind the athletes, was the Warrior Games Torch as each military branch had one representative carry the torch including: Sgt. Robert Price (Army); Former Lance Corporal Chuck Sketch (Marines); Retired Master Chief James William Wilson (Navy); Technical Sgt. Israel Del Toro (Air Force); and Retired Chief Petty Officer Christopher Shunk (Coast Guard). The torch was then handed off to Navy veteran, Heisman Trophy winner and legendary Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who took honors to light the torch at the entrance of the U.S. Olympic Complex and officially get the competition underway.
The athletes were then welcomed by a host of dignitaries in attendance including USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Air Force Four-Star General Victor Renuart, USO CEO Sloan Gibson and Robin Lineberger of Deloitte. Others in attendance included Olympic gold medalist wrestler Henry Cejudo, basketball Hall-of-Famer Rick Berry and Denver Bronco great Randy Gradishar.
In his remarks, Ritter said that the athletes competing can, “show people the things you can do to bring a positive from that which might have been adverse,” and he added that, “these are the people we can look to as the pride of America.”
Day 1 Flash Quotes
Sgt. Randi McCartney (Army/Grand Junction, Colo.)
On what the Warrior Games mean to her. . .
“Since the injury everyday is a confidence battle, but now that I have something to look forward to and a goal in mind it actually helps quite a bit to deal with every day life. Since I have something to set my mind on I don’t sit and think about the past and the things that I’ve been through and the situations that brought me to this point. It helps me look forward to the future and what I can accomplish, what I hopefully will accomplish and to show other people that are going through the same things what they can accomplish or be a part of.
This event is about showing myself and every body in the world that just because you’re a veteran with a disability doesn’t mean that you’re not completely capable of accomplishing greatness. My goal is to prove to myself that I’m still very worthy to wear my uniform and to participate with other people in the service.”
Describing her feelings on walking down the Olympic pathway . . .
“Every time you put your uniform on in the morning you have that pride for your country and for what you do, and to be recognized by complete strangers and to know they are here to support us with the next step of our journey to either recovery and getting out or trying to stay in the military is just unbelievable, indescribable really.”
Daniel Hathorn (Navy/Ithaca, N.Y.)
On what this competition represents . . .
“I think it represents the ultimate athlete. A lot of these guys are still active duty and they still train and still do their normal jobs. And to walk through here and know that there are guys that are the best at what they do in the world, for me and for everyone here, I’m finally able to say all training and all the blood, sweat and tears is paying off.”
Marc Esposito (Air Force/North Carolina)
On the significance of the Warrior Games . . .
“It’s really great to see that there’s a contagious motivation to help wounded warriors and to help motivate guys to do the things that they love to do.”
Day 2 Preview
With months of preparation behind them, the Warrior Games now officially get underway Tuesday for the athletes competing in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. In SportsCenter II at the Olympic Training Center (OTC), sitting volleyball prelims kick-off the competition as Army 1 takes on Air Force and Army 2 takes on Navy beginning at 1600 hrs. Six games in all will be contested on the first night in volleyball. At 1800 hrs. in SportsCenter I at the OTC, prelims of wheelchair basketball begin as Army and Navy collide along with Air Force and Marines. Four games in all will take place in wheelchair basketball Tuesday evening.
Tuesday’s complete competition schedule is as follows:
Volleyball (OTC, SportsCenter II)
Army 1 vs. Air Force – 1600 hrs (Gym 1)
Army 2 vs. Navy – 1600 hrs (Gym 2)
Army 4 vs. Marine 2 – 1700 hrs (Gym 1)
Army 3 vs. Marine 1 – 1700 hrs (Gym 2)
Army 1 vs. Marine 2 – 1800 hrs (Gym 1)
Army 2 vs. Marine 1 – 1800 hrs (Gym 2)
Basketball (OTC, SportsCenter I)
Army vs. Navy – 1800 hrs (Court 1)
Air Force vs. Marines – 1800 hrs (Court 2)
Army vs. Marines – 1930 hrs (Court 1)
Air Force vs. Navy – 1930 hrs (Court 2)
Warrior of the Day presented by Deloitte
The Warrior of the Day presented by Deloitte will be awarded at the conclusion of each day’s competition. These award winners receive recognition on the U.S. Paralympics website. Check back tomorrow as we recognize our first Warrior of the Day.
Stay tuned for the standings of the Chairman’s Cup as all five service branches go head-to-head to determine the best of the best. A formula has been created to even the playing field between the service branches based on the number of athletes they each have competing.
In addition to winners in each event, there will be an "Ultimate Champion" competition in a pentathlon format. Eighteen athletes have entered the Ultimate Champion event, which includes the 50m freestyle swim, 100m sprint, 1500m run, shot put and 10m air rifle events. Check back daily for the Ultimate Champion standings. Featured athletes for this event include:
- Ricky Tackett (Air Force)
- Matthew Bilancia (Air Force)
- Rashaun McDowell (Army)
- Robert Brown (Army)
- Brandon Longe (Army)
- Roy Halvorsen (Army)
- Robert Nuss (Army)
- Kenny Griffith (Army)
- Robert Laux (Army)
- David Bratton (Army)
- Jon Disbro (Marines)
- Angel Barcenas (Marines)
- Jeffery “Scott” Martin (Marines)
- William “Bill” DeRoche (Marines)
- William Gibson (Marines)
- Max Rohn (Navy)
- Joseph Frank (Navy)
- Andrew Johnson (Navy)