Weekend of the Warrior Games

BY Curt Tomasevicz

Without a doubt, it’s obvious that I love competition. Competition fuels me to be the best athlete and person I can be. Whether it is the final heat of the Olympic Games or a simple card game with the family during holidays, I love matching my best against another’s best.

But at the same time, I recognize how sports and competition bring people together for greater reasons. The month of May in Colorado Springs has become one of my favorite times of the year. For the past three years the city, and specifically the Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy, have played host to the Warrior Games.

Each branch of the military puts forth a team of men as well as women. Typically this setup would undoubtedly beg for fierce competition as Army goes head-to-head with Navy and ‘the few and the proud’ go against those that ‘aim high’. It’s well known that our nation’s elite service men and women have a certain self-confidence and a necessary arrogance that, when challenged, brings out their best. It’s that same love for competition that becomes apparent in all the Warrior Games.

But there is a twist. The Warrior Games invite the nation’s bravest and most heroic wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in a week’s worth of competitions. Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy/Coast Guard, and Special Ops represent the U.S. military teams. And this year, the Warrior Games have gone international with a team from Great Britain. The six teams that will compete this year will face each other in sports like wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, swimming, shooting, and track and field. We all hear horror stories about men and women in the front lines of combat that suffer through lost legs, arms, sight, hearing, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The Warrior Games provide a great way to help these soldiers gain a new focus on life after serious distress.

In many ways, these athletes have been training for competition and sport regularly as they do their military fitness conditioning and drills. So it’s no wonder that the Warrior Games competitions are loaded with great displays of athleticism. I am in awe watching the Marines volleyball team spike point after point when their entire front row has a total of one-half leg. The Army basketball team is able to score more points while seated in wheelchairs than some small college teams could in an average game.

Check out a few seconds of the Army vs Special Ops volleyball game. Watch the players as they head toward their bench during the timeout: 

I got the opportunity to talk with Sgt First Class Charles Armstead after he and his Army basketball team beat the Air Force team handedly. We chatted for a while and I walked away from our conversation very humbled. The man had obviously been through a more painful and traumatic moment in his life than any man should, but at the Warrior Games he had a look in his eyes that shouted excitement. He was thrilled just to be a part of the Warrior Games and have the opportunity to play with the other soldiers and ultimately I think, to be able to have a life filled with the very moments he lost his leg defending for all Americans.  

Check out my interview with Charles:

And the last few seconds of his basketball game against Air Force:

Each year, the Warrior Games have gotten bigger and more popular. Last year, the Opening Ceremonies was highlighted by Michelle Obama’s appearance. This year, Prince Harry of Wales helped light the torch and kick off the 3rd Warrior Games. He has been actively bringing awareness to the hundreds of soldiers returning from combat in the mid-east and all over the world with scars, both mental and physical. So this year, Great Britain has entered a team in the Warrior Games bringing a global feel to the events.

I had the privilege of meeting Prince Harry and it was great to see that he was determined to make the purpose of his trip to the U.S. clear. He was excited to watch and be a part of the Warrior Games and recognize the wounded veterans from recent wars.  With more promotion, the Warrior Games will continue to spread to other countries and help wounded veterans find a way to cope with some devastating and traumatic experiences.

Just like Sgt 1st Class Armstead mentioned, the greatest part about the Warrior Games will continue to be the way that so many men and women of our armed services continue to inspire those that seek inspiration every day. It’s not easy putting my body through tough workouts day in and day out to prepare for the 2014 Olympics. But I will never complain about the life I have and the opportunities I have in this country thanks to those Warriors that sacrificed so much. The Warrior Games may exist to help soldiers adjust to life after combat, but to me, the Warrior Games remind me how my love for competition is possible because of our great American heroes.

I hope the Games continue to grow with the help of celebrities and dignitaries like Michelle Obama and Prince Harry. The rest of the country and the world needs to witness these inspirational moments.

Curt Tomasevicz began the sport of bobsled in 2004 and boasts six World Championship medals on his sliding resume, including two gold.  He is also a reigning four-man bobsled Olympic Champion, and one of the most accomplished push athletes in the nation.  Learn more about the former University of Nebraska football player by following @ctomasevicz on Twitter.

*Athlete blog entries are the sole opinion of each individual author and may not be representative of the USBSF or its athletes.