News: Adaptive sports power soldiers through adversity
Story by Sgt. Victor J. Ayala
210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The 2013 Warrior Games began with ceremonies, observances and a royal visit, but it wasn’t until the next day, May 12, 2013, that things really got physical. The Army team was given its first chance to test the mettle of the Marines, Air Force, Navy, United States Special Operations Command and British armed forces teams during the cycling event. The first in a series of competitive adaptive sports planned for the Warrior Games, the cycling event pitted the six teams against one another in seven different cycling categories. In the four-hour event, 20 wounded, ill or injured Army soldiers and veterans raced against friends and rivals in pursuit of the gold.
The event began with Britain’s Prince Harry making a special visit and speaking with a number of the competitors. Then, shortly after the last notes of the United States’ and Britain’s national anthems, the first horn was blown to start the racing. With all formalities out of the way, the gloves had finally come off.
The athletes competed in a number of categories designed to pit similarly able cyclists against each other on three distinct types of bicycle: the standard upright, the hand-pedaled bicycle and the recumbent bicycle. From the Men’s Recumbent Bicycle category to the Women’s Open Bicycle category, the soldiers and Veterans of the Army team dug deep and came away with nine medals overall.
Many soldier athletes said winning medals, however rewarding, paled in comparison to the honor of representing the hope of recovery after injury. Their stories of healing reflect the resilience of our soldiers and their ability to overcome all challenges. Staff Sgt. Michael Lage who lost his left hand, right thumb and suffered third-degree burns over 35 percent of his body, echoed this sentiment after his silver medal victory in the Men’s Recumbent Bicycle category.
“When you get hurt, you tend to think your life and career are over,” said the Jonesboro, Ga., native. “For the last two years, it’s been my thing to help other wounded, injured or ill soldiers adapt and help them focus on things other than healing.”
Lage, despite his injuries, still proudly wears the uniform in the active duty as a squad leader at the Warrior Transition Battalion on Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He will go on to compete in the shooting event of the Warrior Games and hopes to take home the gold.
Some medalists in the event were medal winners in previous Warrior Games. Capt. Lacey Hamilton made her return appearance in the cycling event and won her second cycling medal in two years. The gold-winning New Castle, Del., native won two bronze medals in 2012 for cycling and the women’s 200-meter sprint. She hopes the example she and her fellow soldier athletes set will inspire wounded soldiers to fight for their recovery by finding ways to stay active regardless of injury.
“After injury, I didn’t know what was next for me,” Hamilton said. “Then I found adaptive sports. What I have to tell to fellow warriors is not to give up. It doesn’t matter how you get there, you’ll find a way to recovery.”