COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte officially opened today at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., highlighted by a march of the 260 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans who will compete in the fourth annual competition. With Prince Harry and 1,200 others in attendance, U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, who competed at the 2012 Warrior Games before winning three medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, lit the cauldron to signify the start of the Games, which features seven sports.
“It is tough being at the Warrior Games as an ambassador and a mentor because in my heart, I’m an athlete and a competitor. But I am so proud to be here,” Lt. Snyder said. “Last year, I watched from the athlete section as Melissa Stockwell lit the cauldron as the honorary torchbearer, and I was so inspired. I am thankful for the opportunity this year to light the cauldron and pass the torch to these athletes, and help them find their place in a Movement that means so much to me.”
U.S. Army retired First Lieutenant Stockwell, the first female solider wounded in Iraq, had her left leg amputated above the knee in 2004 after her convoy vehicle was hit by an explosive device in Baghdad. She went on to swim at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and is a paratriathlon hopeful for 2016.
Snyder, who was blinded by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan in Sept. 2011, was accompanied to the cauldron by four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin and Prince Harry. Snyder received the torch from Prince Harry, who, through a partnership between The Royal Foundation and the USOC, is focused on improving physical activity opportunities for wounded warriors and persons with physical disabilities in the United Kingdom and United States.
The torch relay started with competitors in the Warrior Games: retired Specialist First Class Luis Puertas (Orland, Fla.), Army; Lance Cpl. Artem Lazukin (El Cajon, Calif.) accompanied by Sgt. Eric Rodriguez (San Diego, Calif.), Marines; retired Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Jim Castaneda (San Antonio, Calif.) accompanied by Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angelo Anderson (Jacksonville, N.C.), Navy; Captain Sarah Evans (San Antonio, Texas), Air Force; Army Staff Sergeant Alfredo Delossantos (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.), SOCOM; and Captain Dave Henson (Southampton, England), British Armed Forces. Henson then passed the torch to Prince Harry.
Held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the United States Air Force Academy, the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte is a competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans hosted by the USOC and supported by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, USO, Fisher House Foundation, AT&T, BP, Budweiser and the Semper Fi Fund.
Additional guests for today's festivities included the participants' friends and family, team support staffs, community and military leaders, government officials, sponsors, and USOC and National Governing Body staff members.
Patrick Sandusky, USOC chief of communications, acted as the master of ceremonies. Other event highpoints included performances of the U.S. and British national anthems by the United States Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Band and remarks from Jim Benson, chairman of the Paralympic Advisory Committee, Robin Lineberger, chief executive officer, Deloitte Federal Government Services, Senator Mark Udall, Colorado, Congressman Doug Lamborn, Colorado District 5, and Admiral James A. Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“At this time last year, Brad Snyder was only eight months removed from his injury, competing at the Warrior Games,” said Scott Blackmun, chief executive officer for the USOC. “Today, he joined us in the Opening Ceremony as a three-time Paralympic Games medalist, which is testament to how powerful this event can be for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. After competing here, there is no limit to what these men and women will be able to accomplish.”
Starting May 12, five U.S. Armed Forces teams (Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard and Special Operations) and the British Armed Forces team will face off in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.
Individual and team medals will be awarded as well as the Chairman’s Cup, which is given to the highest-performing service branch. The Marines claimed the honors for the past three consecutive years. Nine athletes will also vie for the title of Ultimate Champion, which is a pentathlon style event that pits warriors against each other in a variety of disciplines.
Competitions are free and open to the public.
For more on the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/warriorgames/.