COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. —
Throughout the week here, about 300 wounded, ill and injured service members representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command, along with allied armed forces from the United Kingdom, Australia, and for the first time at Warrior Games, Canada, have competed in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball for gold, silver and bronze medals.
This year, the Department of Defense Warrior Games feature three sports new to the competition: powerlifting, cycling and rowing.
“It was the vision of Air Force leadership and the popular demand of the athletes to include these sports,” said Scott Danberg, DoD Warrior Games sports director since 2015 and five-time Paralympian. “The response has been amazing. Powerlifting was the first of three, and we had a full house.”
He said the rules and regulations were changed with more options to choose from so the athletes could select four individual sports and two team sports in which to compete.
Navy Reserve Senior Chief Petty Officer Joe Paterniti, attached to the Voluntary Training Unit in Everett, Washington, for 32 years, said he’s excited to have the new sports. He competed in powerlifting and the cycling time trial, and will compete in rowing June 9.
“I’ve lifted since I was 15, but I’ve never competed in powerlifting,” he said. “It’s not like the other sports, where you have to learn this really special dance that requires a lot of balance and athleticism, like discus. This is something a knuckle dragger like me could do with no problem.”
Paterniti said the sports also can go hand in hand. “Rowing and powerlifting can both work to increase your lactate threshold and increase your endurance,” he said. “It’s training your mind to being really comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
He said he’s made friends with Marines and Australians, who also compete in powerlifting. “We’re always either pounding fists or giving each other great big hugs. We’ve all got that warrior spirit. We all leave it on the mat,” he said.
Medically retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Janelle Lykon, an air transportation specialist for 13 years, had a personal best in shot put and earned a gold medal in the women’s 4X100 relay June 2. She earned a bronze medal in powerlifting in the 55-kilogram class June 5 and will compete in swimming tomorrow and indoor rowing June 9.
“We’ve had indoor rowing at the [Air Force Wounded Warrior Program in San Antonio], but it just wasn’t a competition. There’s a bunch of us that are excited that it’s a competition this year,” she said.
Lykon said she had gone to the gym to work out and lift before but had never powerlifted before the San Antonio events.
Variety of Sports
Lykon said she loves that the DoD Warrior Games added new sports, giving the athletes more to choose from. “It’s definitely important to keep these sports. I’d love to see sled hockey someday, even as an exhibition match,” she said. “I play ice hockey now. I’ve been playing for 31 years, so sled hockey would be a joy.”
Jason Melo, a bombardier in the Canadian army has served in the artillery for 11 years. He said he picked powerlifting and indoor rowing because he watched them on television last year when the Invictus Games took place in Toronto. He will also compete in swimming and sitting volleyball.
“I picked my sports based on what I found most intriguing watching on TV, so it’s great,” he said. “There are so many athletes and so many options. It’s great.”
He said he hopes competing in the new sports will help to give him a chance to return to the DoD Warrior Games next year in Tampa, Florida, and a chance to compete in the Invictus Games, scheduled for October in Sydney and in the Netherlands in 2020.
Whether it’s new sports or the sports that have been around since the inception of the games in 2010, Danberg said, the athletes and their families have had fun so far this week.
“The athletes and the families are having the best time that I can recall since the inception of the Department of Defense Warrior Games,” Danberg said.
(Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDoDNews)