The final day of a week-long series of USA Judo clinics for injured veterans at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA, had these warriors wanting more and USA Judo looking at a host of possibilities for new programs.
“The opportunities here were just enormous,” said Marc Vink, Team Leader of USA Judo’s Paralympic Adaptive Sports Program, which saw about 150 battle-injured veterans step on the mats for an introduction to the sport.
”They jumped at this thing like you could not believe,” Vink said of the Vets, who came from across the country. USA Judo hopes they now return home where USA Judo will find them local clubs, provide them with gis and USA Judo membership for insurance on the mats.
Judo was one of several sports for the vets to try at the 6th Annual National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. Sailing, surfing, cycling and track and field events also were offered.
Leading clinics Tuesday and Wednesday was Myles Porter, 100 kg (Olympic Training Center/NYAC, Colorado Springs, CO), who took at silver medal at the Paralympic Games in London last summer. “Working with this military group is a great and humbling honor,” said Porter.
Veterans at these clinics had everything from combat spinal injuries, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and visual impairments.
Currently, USA Judo's Paralympic Adaptive Sports program is providing a wide range of resources to active clubs in Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Diego and coming soon to Denver.
Judo instructors at this week’s clinics include Vink, Porter and retired Navy Chief Joe Ciokon and retired U.S. Marine Gerald Lafon, both involved with the veterans community in San Diego. Joining them was Roland Fernando, head sensei of Migot Judo Dojo, located near the OTC in Chula Vista.
If you are interested in starting a Paralympic Adaptive Sports program, contact Denise Thomas at the National Office (719) 866-4732.