U.S. Paralympian Winkler helps coach SOCOM to field success at Warrior Games
U.S. Special Operations team members U.S. Army Capt. Ivan Castro and 1st Lt. Phillip Spaugh race toward the finish line during the men's 200 meter dash at the 2012 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte in Colorado Springs, Colo. Castro took the silver medal in the event in both 2012 and 2013.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – As Doug Franklin stood on the podium to receive his medal, someone shouted from the crowd.
"Don't fall off Doug."
The crowd laughed, and Franklin smiled, knowing it must have been his coach, two-time U.S. Paralympian Scott Winkler.
"Coaching these guys, I get choked up," Winkler said. "I’m so proud of them. What I've heard from these guys is, ‘We got to try. We got to (medal).’ I’d tell them (to) have faith in yourself. If you believe, you can achieve anything you like. That’s the motto I live by."
Winkler, a former U.S. Army specialist, competed in discus and shot put events at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games. Now, at the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, he is coaching the SOCOM team in field events, and the results have rewarding.
He watched two of his athletes – retired Army Sgt. Franklin and Army Capt. Ivan Castro – stand on the podium to receive their silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the men’s discus visually impaired category.
The moment was special for Franklin, who was participating in his first-ever Warrior Games.
“Sport is kind of like icing on the cake (with) the cake, for me, is being around people who understand me," Franklin said. “It’s like a brotherhood. Some of the Marines, I don’t even know, but being here this week, I feel like I have a bond with them.”
Franklin threw 18.72 meters, while gold medalist and Retired Navy Builder Constructionman Dan Peters recorded 21.84m.
"The Navy guy said he’s been throwing for three years, and I got second to him," Franklin said. "He better watch out. Next year, I’m coming after him."
Franklin, who has less than five percent of vision in both eyes, sustained his injuries in Iraq when two explosives went off about 15 feet from him.
Losing most of his sight was just part of the other injuries he received. Franklin also incurred a severe traumatic brain and mobility injures, and he could barely walk from his bed to the couch months following the incident.
"Doug is so inspiring for all of us to see him out here," said Castro, who is participating in his third Games. "This is his first Warrior Games, and he is kicking (it). He did so in the discus, and we can’t wait to see him swim on Thursday."
Castro never touched a discus or shot put before, and mostly competed in track events in previous Games. This year is his first time competing in field events, and he won silver in the shot put, crediting the technical coaching of Winkler.
"Scott could be doing 5,000 other different things, but he’s taking his time to come here and pass his knowledge along," said Castro, who is completely blind.
Competitions such as Warrior Games was how Winkler got started in sports and helped him reach the Beijing and London Games. Now, he’s giving back.
"This is their Paralympics," Winkler said. "As a Paralympian, you go to those other stadiums, and you’re in front of all those other countries. These guys are rolling in against all those other branches of service and competing at the highest level. They sacrificed their lives serving, and now they’re sacrificing just a little more to play sports."
For more on the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/WarriorGames/.