U.S. Men's National Team meets Team Navy/Coast Guard from Warrior Games
posted on 05/10/2012

© Kelly Dempsey

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Acaa The U.S. Men's Senior National Training Camp had an unexpected but inspiring moment at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. As the men's training session was beginning, the team members and coaches became curious about the cheers and enthusiasm emanating from the other half of the gym, which was partitioned for multi-use. Their curiosity resulted in an incredible opportunity to meet and speak with the 35 athletes representing the Navy/Coast Guard in the 2012 Warrior Games.

The Warrior Games Team was involved in a pep rally, led by Rear Admiral Annie Andrews and other Navy and dignitaries. When the warrior athletes responded with cheers to Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick West's statement that "We are on this team together. To quote Babe Ruth, 'The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. They may be the greatest bunch of individual stars together, but if they don't play together, then the club wouldn't be worth a dime," the U.S. men's team had to check it out.

After the two groups introduced one another, Kevin Mazeika, the men's national team coordinator, spoke to the group and shared stories from Beijing, especially about the team winning the bronze medal.

"No one said we could [win a medal], so that was like a gold for us," said Mazeika. "A coach from another team approached me and said that he wished he had what the American team had, but he couldn't get that kind of motivation out of his guys. I asked the coach, 'Why is that?' The other coach replied, "Because you're from the United States of America."

© Kelly Dempsey

Jonathan Horton, who was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, spoke with the warrior athletes and earned a standing ovation.

"We don't get to do what we do without you guys protecting our freedom," Horton said. "Thank you."

Immediately, Team Navy/Coast Guard athletes began chanting, "USA! USA! USA!", and the U.S. men's team cheered back.

Mazeika thanked the Team Navy/Coast Guard contingent, saying "This is just the inspiration my gymnasts need as they train for London."

The 35 warrior athletes participated as Team Navy/Coast Guard, sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program, a key component of the Department of the Navy's 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative. The initiative is meant to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.

The Warrior Games, hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympics military program, provides an opportunity for wounded, ill, and injured service members to participate in competitive sports against members of other branches of service.