News: Two Army Warrior Games medal winners selected for Team USA
Story by Staff Sgt. Emily Anderson
Alexandria, Va. – Two Army Warrior Games medal winners, Robbie Gaupp and Luis Puertas, will represent the United States at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, July 19 to 28. Gaupp is a retired Army sergeant and Puertas a retired Army specialist.
The Warrior Games are designed to introduce injured service members and veterans to Paralympic sport competitions and encourage them to stay physically active.
“Being in the military I was able to wear a uniform and represent my country, but after being injured I didn’t think I would have that opportunity again,” he added. “Now I’m putting on a different type of uniform, but still able to represent my country.”
The U.S. Paralympics announced that Gaupp of Gatesville, Texas, who will be competing in the triple jump event and Puertas of Orlando, Fla., who will run in the 200-meter sprint event will join 74 other athletes at the major international competition.
“It’s a little unreal, but I’m really happy to have the opportunity to represent my country again,” said Puertas, who started training immediately after seeing Great Britain’s Richard Whitehead, a double-leg amputee, run during the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
“Watching him race stirred something inside of me and made me want to be like him,” he added. “Ever since that day, I started training and was fortunate to race against him and other Paralympians at an IPC Grand Prix.”
Puertas, who lost both legs in 2006 after an explosively formed penetrator hit the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle he was driving, competes using prostheses and credits Warrior Games as being his first event to race against others with similar disabilities.
“This was my third running competition, but I had only done two smaller meets at a local high school racing against able-bodied people.” said Puertas, who won gold in the 100-meters, 200-meters and the 1500-meters double amputation above the knee running events. “The 2013 Warrior Games was my first chance to run against people like me.”
“I needed to do it and am glad I did because it was a good experience,” he added. “I took full advantage of the training from the coaches and still use some techniques today.”
Unlike Puertas, Gaupp was not able to compete in the 2013 Warrior Games because he reached Paralympic times which disqualified him from being able to compete in track events at Warrior Games.
“It was bittersweet because I wanted this to be my final year at the Games, but I’m glad someone who might not have made the team did because I didn’t,” said Gaupp who won several gold and silver medals during the 2010, 2011, and 2012 Games. “That’s what it’s all about, motivating others to do great things.”
While on assignment in the U.S. supporting Operation Jumpstart, Gaupp shattered his right shoulder assisting border patrol units along the Texas-Mexico border.
“I’ve always been an athletic person, but being injured changed my life,” said the former semi-pro football player who was unable to continue his football career. “I have an invisible injury that’s comparable to being an amputee because I have no feeling in my right arm.”
Both competitors will have to continue vigorous training routines such as daily runs, weight lifting, and swimming, but they understand the purpose and look forward to learning new techniques that will add Paralympic medals to their list of Warrior Games medals.
“It’s been hard,” said Gaupp. “I want people to see that I didn’t let my disability overcome me, but I overcame it.”
Puertas also hopes other wounded, ill or injured soldiers and Veterans take inspiration from him as he did from Whitefield. “It’s a little confusing because you don’t know what to expect when you’re injured. You’re normal maybe different from the normal you had before, but it can still be pretty good,” he said.
“You have to keep a positive mind and work hard because one day you’ll look back and see all the work put in paid off and be proud of yourself,” he said. “Looking back after you make your goals and realizing everything you’ve done was worth it.”
For more information about these athletes and Paralympics visit www.teamusa.org or www.wtc.army.mil for information about the Warrior Games and how the Army continues to support it’s wounded, ill or injured soldiers and Veterans.