Paralympic champions Roman, Schaus open 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Sept. 28, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

Paul Schaus and Rico Roman
Paul Schaus hands the torch to Rico Roman, who lit the cauldron to start the 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte officially opened today at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, highlighted by a march of the 200 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans who will compete in the fifth annual competition. With 2,000 people in attendance, 2014 Paralympic sled hockey gold medalists Paul Schaus (Buffalo, New York) and Rico Roman (Portland, Oregon), both Purple Heart recipients, lit the cauldron to signify the start of the Games, which features athletes from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Command competing in seven sports through Oct. 3.

“It’s truly humbling to share my Paralympic medal with these athletes and see them smile,” said Roman, who is taking the season off from competitive sled hockey. “I hope that Paul and I inspire these men and women to pursue their Paralympic dreams after competing at the Warrior Games. I hope this is just the beginning for them. It’s fun to be a part of this experience with all the different branches but of course, I’m rooting for Army.”

Roman, a retired Army staff sergeant, had his left leg amputated above the knee after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device while serving his third tour in Iraq in Feb. 2007. A father of two, Roman was introduced to sled hockey by Operation Comfort, an organization dedicated to assisting injured U.S. service personnel at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Following a gold-medal performance at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships and a second-place showing in 2013, Roman went on to make his Paralympic debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, where Team USA became the first nation to successfully defend a Paralympic title in sled hockey, beating Russia 1-0 in the gold medal game, aired live on NBC.

“It was an honor to be selected as one of the torchbearers for the Warrior Games,” Schaus said. “It’s a great privilege to be out here with everyone who is competing. My advice to these athletes is to chase your goals. Take it one day at a time and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You can do whatever you want to do.”

Though retired Marine Corps Corporal Schaus is entering just his third season with the No. 1-ranked U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, he is already a force to be reckoned with for Team USA. Two-time world champion Schaus had both legs amputated above the knee after being injured by an improvised explosive device while on a rural patrol in Afghanistan in June 2009. While undergoing rehabilitation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Schaus was introduced to sled hockey and he immediately found a passion for the sport. The determined veteran played two seasons (2010-12) with the USA Warriors, an organization that provides ice hockey programs to injured service members, before shifting his efforts to a full-time performance with Team USA.

The torch relay started with competitors in the Warrior Games:  Retired Army Capt. Frank Barroqueiro; Marine Cpl. Jorge Salazar assisted by Sgt. Eric Rodriguez; Retired Navy Chief Yeoman Sharona Young assisted by Sonar Technician Surface 2nd Class Shericka Goza; Air Force MSgt Axel Gaud-Torres; and Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Doug Franklin, Special Operations Command. Franklin then passed the torch to Schaus. The Marine veteran handed it to Roman, who lit the cauldron, signifying the official start of the Games.

Held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and other facilities in Colorado Springs, including Fort Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy, the 2014 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 Department of Defense, AT&T, BP, Dow, Semper Fi Fund, The Fisher House Foundation, The Daniels Fund and USO. It started in 2010.

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.

Charlie Huebner acted as the master of ceremonies. Other event highpoints included a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kat Strus and remarks from Deloitte Principal Mark Goulart, USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. Garfola Wright.

“The men and women competing this week at the Warrior Games are the epitome of the American spirit,” said Huebner, vice president of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation. “This week, we are celebrating the resiliency of our wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans, and the determination that brings them to Colorado Springs to compete for their respective branches. It is incredibly humbling to be alongside our nation’s heroes as they experience the power of sport. While medals will be won over the next six days, the most important result is the awareness that the Warrior Games and its competitors create nationally about the impact and need for sustainable physical activity programs at the community level for persons with physical disabilities and visual impairments. The United States Olympic Committee is proud to play a role in helping provide those opportunities.”

Starting tonight at 4 p.m. with the first sitting volleyball match at the U.S. Olympic Training Center’s Sports Center 1 and 2, five U.S. Armed Forces teams (Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard and Special Operations) will face off in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball. Competition schedules can be downloaded by clicking here.

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 four consecutive years. Eight 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. Winners of the Chairman’s Cup and the Ultimate Champion trophy will be acknowledged during half-time of the Oct. 4 Air Force/Navy football game at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Competitions are free and open to the public while the Closing Ceremony will take place as a part of the Air Force/Navy game day festivities.

For more on the 2014 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/WarriorGames/