Military Sports

Athletes warming up for 2015 Warrior Games

For the service members, the games are an opportunity to show off their athleticism while sparring with troops on the battlefield of sport.

For spectators, the events offer the fierce excitement of competition with a chance to "know their military a little better," Warrior Games spokesman Marine Corps Capt. James Ferguson said Friday.

"It's a wonderful opportunity … for the American public to see those who have served in a time of war and overcome incredible challenges ... to see the true definition of courage," Ferguson said.

The games, which kick off June 19, will be the first hosted outside Colorado Springs, Colorado, since they were established in 2010. Teams of 45 athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom will compete in eight events, including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, archery, track, field, cycling, shooting and swimming.

In a new event this year, U.S. troops will take on a U.K. contingent in exhibition wheelchair rugby, a sport Ferguson promises will be as exciting as "Murderball," the 2005 documentary on the sport.

"It can be pretty brutal. These athletes are here to win," Ferguson said.

While the participants have trained for months in their sports and competed against others to win spots on their respective teams, the games also mark the culmination of years of recovery for most of the athletes.

Marine Corps' Anthony McDaniel passes around Army's Delvin Maston during the gold medal match in wheelchair basketball at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Friday, October 3, 2014. (Mike Morones/Staff)
Marine Corps' Anthony McDaniel passes around Army's Delvin Maston during the gold medal match in wheelchair basketball at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Friday, October 3, 2014. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Marine Corps' Anthony McDaniel passes around Army's Delvin Maston during the gold-medal match in wheelchair basketball at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Oct. 3, 2014.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

Ferguson remembers the day McDaniel was injured, Aug. 31, 2010; the sergeant was one of his Marines, on a clearance patrol in Afghanistan.

"When he got hurt, we didn't think he would make it. For me, this is personal. I'm really looking forward to watching him play," Ferguson said.

Retired Staff Sgt. Steven Malits celebrates a point over Army in Air Force's first sitting volleyball match of the 2014 Warrior Games at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on Sunday, September 28, 2014. (Mike Morones/Staff)
Retired Staff Sgt. Steven Malits celebrates a point over Army in Air Force's first sitting volleyball match of the 2014 Warrior Games at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on Sunday, September 28, 2014. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Retired Staff Sgt. Steven Malits celebrates a point over Army in Air Force's first sitting volleyball match of the 2014 Warrior Games.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

Promising to add a dash of interservice rivalry to the competition is the medal count. For the first four years of the games, the Marine Corps won the Chairman's Cup — the trophy awarded for the most medals won.

Last year, the Army stole the trophy away, earning 69 total medals to outpace the Corps' 54.

"We're eager to get that cup back, especially on our home turf," Ferguson said.

Navy's John Kremer tries to block a shot by Air Force's Ryan Pinney during Navy's 38-19 win in wheelchair basketball at the 2014 Warrior Games at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Monday, September 29, 2014. (Mike Morones/Staff)
Navy's John Kremer tries to block a shot by Air Force's Ryan Pinney during Navy's 38-19 win in wheelchair basketball at the 2014 Warrior Games at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Monday, September 29, 2014. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Navy's John Kremer tries to block a shot by Air Force's Ryan Pinney during Navy's 38-19 win in wheelchair basketball at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Sept. 29, 2014.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

From across the pond, the U.K. team also will bring a dash of swagger, having hosted an extraordinarily successful Invictus Games last September at London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which drew 400 athletes from 13 coalition countries along with thousands of spectators.

"We know how important sport is as part of an individual's recovery. Not only does it help physically, sport provides huge psychological benefits, too, including improving self-confidence and self-esteem," said Martin Colclough, head of sports recovery at Help for Heroes, team sponsor for Great Britain.

The June 19 opening ceremonies take place at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway, Triangle, Va. Organizers recommend that members of the public arrive at least 90 minutes before the 11 a.m. start, as security will be tight with a number of high-ranking military officials and civilian VIPs, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, expected to speak.

Army Trials team tryouts and coaches for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games huddle before basketball practice at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2015. (DoD News photo by EJ Hersom)
Army Trials team tryouts and coaches for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games huddle before basketball practice at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2015. (DoD News photo by EJ Hersom)

Athletes huddle before basketball practice at the Army's 2015 Warrior Games trials on Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas on March 28, 2015.

Photo Credit: EJ Hersom/Joint Hometown News Service

All events are free and open to the public and require no registration.

Ferguson suggested those in the Washington, D.C., area consider spending a day at Quantico, enjoying an opportunity to see the base and some of the strongest warfighters in military service today.

"We encourage people to come out, interact with us and have fun right alongside us," he said.

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