Marines Dominate in Early Competition at Warrior Games
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 12, 2010 The Marine Corps team is on top after yesterday’s first day of competition at the inaugural Warrior Games here, sweeping their opponents and finishing 4-0 in team play.
Marine wheelchair basketball team coach Billy Demby, center, huddles with his players during a timeout May 11, 2010. The Marines routed the Air Force 68-13 in the preliminary round of wheelchair basketball at the inaugural Warrior Games. The games feature some 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans in Paralympic-type competition. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Team Marine ended the day 2-0 in sitting volleyball and 2-0 in wheelchair basketball at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The Marines’ run started on the volleyball court with a victory over Team Army 2 in the opening match. Team Army 2 fought hard, but the Marines took the first two games of the best-of-three series fairly easy.
The second game, against Team Army 3, was a different story. The Marines barely pulled off the win in a 30-28 Game 3 nail-biter. After losing the first game, Team Army 3 took a quick 8-0 lead in the second game. But, the poised Marines patiently clawed their way back to tie the game at 20. The intensity in the bleachers picked up, as bellowing chants of “Let’s go, Army!” and “Marine Corps! Marine Corps!” thundered back and forth across the court.
In the end, the pressure was just too much for the Army, and it was the Marine cheering section that rushed the floor to celebrate victory.
“This is great!” Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Marcus Wilson shouted. “This is what we’ve been training for the last two weeks.”
Wilson gave credit to the Army team. The victory was much sweeter against a strong opponent, he said, and Team Army 3 was a tough squad.
“They were tough, and they did a great job with a lot of heart, but this is what we’ve been training for – this exact situation,” Wilson said. “This type of scenario is something our coaches have been working on with us in practice, so we were ready.”
The Marines also dominated competition the basketball court. With their high field goal percentage and quick guard play, the Marines showed why they are heavily favored to win the gold medal. The Marines routed the Air Force 68-13 in their first game, and followed up that win by beating Army 45-18 in a game that was a little closer than the score indicates.
The Air Force didn’t have an answer for the speed of Retired Marine Corps Cpl. Travis Greene and Cpl. Raymond Hennagir. The two double-leg amputees zipped up and down the floor in tandem, while Air Force defenders could only watch.
The Army, however, made a strong showing again early on in the second game. But their hope of winning slowly began to fade with the loss of smooth-driving point guard Spc. Craig C. Smith to a leg cramp in the second half. The Marines took advantage of Smith’s absence, cruising to victory behind a 20-2 run.
After getting through the first day of competition unscathed, the Marines are going into today’s second day of competition optimistic about their chance to win the Chairman’s Cup, the games’ top award that will be presented to the service with the highest medal count.
“The first day of competition, we rock-and-rolled,” Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Luis Nino, the senior staff noncommissioned officer for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, said. “To turn around and see my Marines, my country’s Marines, do so well in competition is highly motivating.”
An avid sports fan, Nino said watching yesterday’s competition was more exciting than sitting in the stands at Yankee Stadium in October, where he watched his New York Yankees come from behind on a late-inning home run from Alex Rodriguez in a playoff game.
“Even that game didn’t compare to the last game we played against the Army in volleyball,” Nino said. “I’ve never screamed as loud as I did or got light-headed from cheering the way I did in that game.”
Although the athletes have proven to be highly competitive, the Warrior Games are about more than victory and medals. Most importantly, the games are about competitors rising to new challenges and gaining a sense of normalcy and renewed confidence.
So far, the Warrior Games have panned out to be better than the athletes and organizers ever could have imagined, said U.S. Paralympian and Army Gulf War veteran John Register.
“I don’t think the first day of competition could’ve gone any better,” said Register, who lost his left leg to a hurdling accident in 1994 while training for the 1996 Summer Olympics. “Even though we’re one team, one fight as a country, when you get the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps [and] Coast Guard in here, it’s a phenomenal experience to see the camaraderie and esprit de corps take over. We’re seeing that right now with our servicemembers.
“When you look around, you see no one harping on disabilities,” Register added. “It’s all about ability and getting into the spirit of the games.”
Official Day 1 results are:
In sitting volleyball:
-- Marines defeated Army 2; 2-0; 25-11, 25-8
-- Air Force defeated Army 1; 2-0; 27-25, 25-16
-- Marines defeated Army 3; 2-0; 25-7, 30-28
-- Army 2 defeated Navy; 2-0; 25-22, 25-13
-- Army 1 defeated Marine 2; forfeit for not enough players
-- Army 4 defeated Marine 2; forfeit for not enough players
In wheelchair basketball:
-- Army 15, Navy 10
-- Marines 68, Air Force 13
-- Marines 45, Army 18
-- Air Force 22, Navy 18
Today, athletes are set to compete in archery, cycling and swimming, as well as the second round of pool play in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
The inaugural Warrior Games, which run through May 14, feature about 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans from all five branches of military service in Paralympic-type competitions. The U.S. Olympic Committee hosts the games in partnership with the Defense Department and the USO.