By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
The Warrior Transition Command final Warrior Games selection clinic held at Fort Meade, Maryland last week gave about 50 Soldiers and Veterans a chance to compete in four different sports for a spot on the Army team, but for several athletes this was their first chance to compete in the cycling event.
Athletes using an upright cycle are required to complete a distance of 30and athletes riding a recumbent cycle must complete a distance of 20 kilometers. Hand-crank cycles and all female cyclists, regardless of which cycle used, must complete 10 kilometers.
“I was going to do this last year, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to,” said SGT Julio Larrea, an AW2 Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.
Larreawas serving as an infantryman when he was injured when his left foot was crushed in a vehicle rollover during his deployment to Afghanistan in August 2010. His left leg was eventually amputated because of too much soft tissue damage and small reoccurring infections.
“It’s funny because before I deployed I told everyone I wanted to be home for my birthday. I didn’t want to spend another birthday deployed,” Julio said. “I was actually flown to Walter Reed on September 7, my birthday. I guess I got my wish.”
If selected, Larrea plans to take his postive attitude and determination to Warrior Games.
“No matter what I get tasked to do, I’ll do the best I can. Everything you do and everything you go through is you getting the job done,” Larrea said. “I don’t let things get me down too much. That’s just my personality.”
For some, going to Warrior Games is a chance at redemption from previous year’s competitions and Army athletes are determined to do their best.
“Last year the Marines had a stategy,” said SSG Kenny Griffith, who competed for the title of Ultimate Champion the first two years of Warrior Games and plans to compete again this year for the title.
Ultimate Champion is a Pentathlon-style format designed to pit Soldiers against each other in a variety of disciplines. Points are earned in each discipline, and the athlete collecting the most points is crowned Ultimate Champion.
“I got blocked out by them in cycling last year because they had two cyclists take off at the start then the majority of them were at a decent speed, but I couldn’t get ahead of the pack because they had two cyclists at the back kind of blocking anyone from getting ahead,” said Griffith, a Soldier assigned to the Fort Hood WTU.
“This will probably be my last year competing in Warrior Games,” said Griffith. “Originally it was going to be last year, but I wanted to come back because I’m able to help with tactics and show people how to stay with the group.”
Throughout the clinic the cyclists gave it their all and motivated others who had never competed before to try cycling.
“Everyone worked pretty good together. They were close-knit, encouraging, and motivating.” SSG Mario Bilbrew, the Army’s Warrior Games cycling coach, said. “I’m confident we are going to do good at Warrior Games.”