Charlie Swearingen is a member of the U.S. Men's Sitting Volleyball Team, which played in the Central American Games for Sitting Volleyball in Costa Rica
SAN JUAN, Costa Rica (April 21, 2013) – As we stood on the center podium at the Central American Games for Sitting Volleyball awards ceremony, I reflected back on the three sets of play. The Colombian team arrived fit for championship play and badly wanted a win over Team USA; this you could see in their eyes. Their team is at a critical level in their development where they are beginning to play less 'scramble' and more controlled, deliberate execution. They were quiet on the way to the venue, which hasn't been the case throughout the week as they have typically been boisterous and jovial competitors. Not anymore. The calm fierceness displayed in their demeanor and behavior meant only one thing: they believed they were going to win and they were focusing hard on that singular goal. I have heard of 'Sunday' Tiger Woods stepping up his game in the final round of golf, and perhaps Colombia was exhibiting a sitting volleyball equivalent of this phenomenon. It was our job to thwart this focus through consistent play.
The Colombian team took advantage of some early U.S. mistakes and paired it with some hustle to lead Team USA multiple times in the match. We had to come back several times to take all three sets. Most notably was the second set where we had to crawl out of a six-point deficit as we had 22-16 glaring at us from the scorers' table. Dan Regan had some key blocks and shut Colombia down at the net during our run to extricate ourselves from the aforementioned point deficit. Dan also exploited several holes in the Colombian defense as he led the team in total points, which is quite a feat for a middle hitter to accomplish.
Team USA's point distribution was pretty equal with everyone pulling together and taking a piece of Colombian victory away with each point earned. I enjoyed a couple of long serving runs where some well-placed serves played havoc on Colombia's serve-receive defense.
Edgar Laforest continued to be a leader and calming element on the court as well as earning several quality points for Team USA. Aside from the occasional correction he would angrily bark from the bench as one of us made a knuckleheaded play, Coach Hamiter kept a calm constitution during timeouts and dispensed positive feedback in such a manner to motivate us to perform better. I gotta tell you, it's like he has done this before. Rejy and Thomas played solidly after knocking off the jitteriness after the first set and earned some key points assisting team USA out of the cellar in set two. J Dee also had some key points as well as hitting a ball so hard it not only flew out of bounds, but I'm sure NASA has recently discovered a new object orbiting the Earth.
We finally tied up the second set at 23-23, but would flip-flop with them in points until we finally pulled 2 points away at 24-26 to take the win. It was a dagger to the competitive fierceness they intimidatingly displayed on the bus ride to the venue. We steamrolled Team Colombia in the third set as you could already see the defeat in their eyes. I played and lost a chess game with one of their players earlier in the week and during that third set we made eye contact in the moments before a serve. I nodded as if to say, "keep your head up." He nodded too, but in a manner that revealed his damage spirit. A few plays later, it was over.
As I leaned over to accept my gold medal, I looked up, shook the presenters hand, and said, "That was for Boston." His smile subtlety grew a little wider and we extended the handshake a few extra moments before letting go as if he were silently saying, "well done."
We are now on a plane back to the States and into the welcoming arms of those who love us. While in their embrace, we will remind ourselves just how important that love is and what it means to us. Our win is somewhat bittersweet in that we played for those in Boston who lost the lives and limbs of their loved ones in the bombing. The world happens all around us and individually we are limited to what we can do about it. However, how we handle what the world doles out is within our ability to make a better difference. Make sure the ones you love know they are loved. Make sure every moment and every point counts. For Boston, for our country, for ourselves: we made every point count on that court and brought you home gold. Our hearts and thoughts are with you, Boston. Playing for you truly was our honor.
Charles F. Swearingen, BS, NREMTP, FPC
Flight Paramedic; OU MediFlight
#13 United States National Volleyball Team