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WCAP Soldier-athlete will run for gold at Rio Olympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Nine runners were between Spc. Paul Chelimo and the finish line at Nilton Santos Stadium.

The Army water treatment specialist and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program was in 10th place during the final lap of the second semifinal heat of the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With 350 meters to go and such a seemingly insurmountable deficit to overcome, Chelimo’s gold-medal dreams seemed dashed.

Then, he made his move. It was one that didn’t surprise his former coach at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where Chelimo was an All-American runner for the Spartans before joining the Army in 2014.

“He just rolled right past everybody,” Linh Nguyen told the News and Record of Greensboro on Wednesday morning. “ … that’s just vintage Paul.”

Chelimo broke into a heated sprint, one that would see him complete the final lap of a 12.5-lap race in 54 seconds. He gradually streamed past his competitors to win his heat with a personal best time of 13:19.54 and secure a spot in the 5,000-meter final. The 25-year-old’s time was also the fastest among the field of 51 runners in two heats. Chelimo will race for a gold medal Saturday evening against 14 other qualifiers.

Before the race Wednesday morning, Chelimo posted a message on his Facebook page that reflected upon the lessons he has honed in the Army.

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Bor runs to top-10 finish

Sgt. Hillary Bor finished eighth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final Wednesday morning.

Bor completed the race with a time of 8:22.74, nearly three seconds faster than his finishing time in his semifinal race, which he won.

While Bor missed out on reaching the podium, running in the final was an unprecedented cap to his time at the Olympics. The financial management technician with the 230th Financial Management Support Unit, 4th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade wasn’t mentioned in most media projections of pre-Olympic Trials favorites to earn berths on Team USA. While he was an accomplished NCAA steeplechaser, having been named an All-American four times while attending Iowa State University, Bor had stopped running competitively for nearly two years before he enlisted in 2013. But he raised eyebrows with this semifinal heat win Monday.

Bor will now rejoin his unit, which is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

Other news

Two other NCOs from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program compete later this week.

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher begins action in the modern pentathlon Thursday. Schrimsher is coached by fellow Soldier, Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher. Staff Sgt. John Nunn competes in the 50-kilometer race walk Friday.

Spc. Paul Chelimo finished the 5,000-meter final in third place July 9 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Chelimo rallied from a 10th place position to win his 5,000-meter semifinal heat Wednesday at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Chelimo will race for a gold medal in the final Saturday night. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
Spc. Paul Chelimo finished the 5,000-meter final in third place July 9 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Chelimo rallied from a 10th place position to win his 5,000-meter semifinal heat Wednesday at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Chelimo will race for a gold medal in the final Saturday night. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

Army athletes continue quest for gold at Rio Olympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

The gold-medal chase is still on for several Soldier-athletes taking part in the 2016 Olympic Games as the competition enters its final week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sgt. Hillary Bor continued to impress in his unlikely trek to the Games by winning his semifinal heat Monday in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 8:25.01. Bor’s time ranks sixth overall among competitors. He will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final Wednesday morning.

For Bor, who wasn’t mentioned in most media projections of pre-Olympic Trials favorites to earn berths on Team USA, the chance to race for a medal is an unprecedented opportunity. While he was an accomplished NCAA steeplechaser, having been named an All-American four times while attending Iowa State University, Bor had stopped running competitively for nearly two years before he enlisted in 2013.

“I was not running when I joined the military,” Bor told the Army news service last month after his runner-up finish at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. “Then I started running for fun just to represent the Army at the Army Ten-Miler and in cross country.”

That fun developed into a competitive streak, one that Bor used to help his All-Army team win this year’s Armed Forces Cross Country Championship at Bend, Oregon. Bor followed that up with his Olympic berth. Now he has a chance to claim one of sports’ biggest prizes, something he said he wouldn’t have been able to achieve without the resilience he has honed while part of the Army. He is also grateful for the opportunity to compete at all given that his unit – the 230th Financial Management Support Unit, 4th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade – at Fort Carson, Colorado, is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

“I was actually scheduled to deploy with my unit, but my (Army) brothers deployed instead of me,” Bor said. “That changed my mindset, that I needed to work out, because you don’t take anything for granted. I started training hard, and I realized that I had a chance.”

That chance arrives Wednesday.

Boxing team

Three U.S. boxers remain in the hunt for the country’s first gold medal since Andre Ward claimed the hardware in the light heavyweight division of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

When Shakur Stevenson (bantamweight), Gary Russell (light welterweight) and Claressa Shields (women’s middleweight) return to the ring for action today and Wednesday, they will have an NCO in their corner.

Sgt. 1st Class Joe Guzman is part of the coaching staff led by Billy Walsh. For Guzman, who is an assistant boxing coach for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, the Olympics are familiar territory. He was part of the staff for Team USA Boxing at the 2012 London Olympics as a trainer. This time around, he is a full-fledged assistant, part of a staff that includes Augie Sanchez in addition to Walsh.

Guzman has been a WCAP coach since 2008. Before his foray into coaching, he was an accomplished boxer in his own right. Guzman was a three-time All Armed Forces champion and won a silver medal at the 2007 World Military Championships. He qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2008, but his career was cut short by a knee injury.

Other news

Three other Soldiers, including two NCOs, from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program compete later this week.

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher begins action in the modern pentathlon Thursday. Schrimsher is coached by fellow Soldier, Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher. Staff Sgt. John Nunn competes in the 50-kilometer race walk Friday. Spc. Paul Chelimo will run Wednesday in the 5,000-meter race.

Six other athletes from WCAP and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit have already finished competition at the Rio Olympics. They include:

  • Sgt. 1st Class Josh Richmond finished 7th overall in the men’s double trap competition Aug. 10.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller finished 14th overall in the men’s double trap competition Aug. 10
  • Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson finished 10th overall in the men’s 25-meter rapid fire pistol competition Saturday.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail finished 19th overall in the men’s 50-meter rifle prone competition Friday.
  • Spc. Leonard Korir finished 14th overall and Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir finished 19th overall in the men’s 10,000-meter race
  • Sgt. Hillary Bor runs the 3,000-meter steeplechase July 8 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Bor finished second to earn a spot in the Rio Olympics. He has reached the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, which will be run Wednesday (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
    Sgt. Hillary Bor runs the 3,000-meter steeplechase July 8 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Bor finished second to earn a spot in the Rio Olympics. He has reached the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, which will be run Wednesday (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

WCAP NCO’s story of courage shared with sports superstars at ESPY Awards

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks is more than merely fit for duty. She is a testament to service. On Wednesday night, the biggest names in sports were introduced to her story.

Marks, a combat medic and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete program of Fort Carson, Colorado, was presented with the Pat Tillman Award for Service during the ESPYs. The awards show, which recognizes grand sports achievements, aired on ABC.

Marks is the first active-duty Soldier to receive the award. She was awarded for using swimming to recover from debilitating hip injuries she received in Iraq in 2010. Marks has not only parlayed her newfound sport to great heights — last week she was named to the 2016 U.S. Paralympic swim team that will compete later this year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She has also inspired hordes of her fellow Soldiers.

“I have struggled for a long time with survival guilt,” Marks said in a video shown to the audience before the award presentation. “I felt selfish for wanting to go and compete when I could do other things to help people. I started getting mail and having people reach out to me who had been injured saying, ‘I saw your story and I wanted to go swim,’ and that, for me, was better than any medal I could ever win.”

But win she has. Marks is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke. But beyond her prowess in the pool, Marks has also displayed immense gratitude and humility. That was no more evident than earlier this year when she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, the British royal who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 25-year-old gave the award back.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.

For Marks, it wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and exhaustive rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.

She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Less than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.

“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks said during the video. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”

Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she finds at the Rio Paralympics will be because of them. Marks closed with an emotional parting message.

“If you’re hurting, whether it’s mental or emotional, if ever you think you’re alone, you’re not,” she said. “And if ever you think no one cares, I do. Please come join me behind the blocks.”

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks gave an emotional speech after receiving the Pat Tillman Award for Service during the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)
Sgt. Elizabeth Marks gave an emotional speech after receiving the Pat Tillman Award for Service during the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)

Prince Harry returns WCAP NCO’s gold medal to British hospital that saved her life

NCO JOURNAL STAFF REPORT

A Soldier-athlete’s unprecedented request has been fulfilled.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a combat medic and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program based at Fort Carson, Colorado, asked Prince Harry to deliver one of the gold medals she won at last month’s Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, to the staff of the British hospital that saved her life.

Today, the British royal made good on that promise, presenting Marks’ gold medal from the 100-meter freestyle event to doctors and nurses from Cambridge’s Papworth Hospital during a ceremony at Kensington Palace in London.

Marks won four gold medals in the swimming competition of the 2016 Invictus Games. Her final medal was presented by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 25-year-old gave the award back, a grand gesture that made international headlines.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to give the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff.

The BBC reports that the prince told those assembled Wednesday how Marks had described Papworth as “undoubtedly the best place for someone having this condition.”

“From all of us, it’s just a huge, huge thank you to all of you,” Prince Harry said.

A Papworth spokesman told the BBC they were hoping to launch an Elizabeth Marks Fund to help finance the development of equipment and support patients treated at the hospital’s critical care unit where the medal will go on display.

Two months after leaving the British hospital, Marks broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Earlier this year she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division during the first day of the Jimi Flowers Classic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving notice to the world that she will be a force at this year’s Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is currently ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Marks joined the Army at age 17 in July 2008 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Her goal was to care for injured Soldiers as a combat medic, a role she carried out until she was injured.

5 NCOs among first 100 athletes named to U.S. Olympic Team

By TIM HIPPS
Army News Service

Five noncommissioned officers are among the first 100 athletes named to the U.S. Olympic Team scheduled to compete Aug. 5-21 in the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rapid-fire pistol shooter Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, race walker Staff Sgt. John Nunn and modern pentathlete Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher are Soldier-athletes in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Shotgun shooter Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller and rifle shooter Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail are Soldier-athletes in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, seen here practicing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been selected for his third U.S. Olympic Team and will compete in the men’s 25-meter rapid fire pistol event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, seen here practicing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been selected for his third U.S. Olympic Team and will compete in the men’s 25-meter rapid fire pistol event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

Sanderson, 41, a three-time Olympian from San Antonio, Texas, is the most decorated competitive pistol shooter in U.S. military history. He is scheduled to compete Aug. 12-13 in the 25-meter rapid fire pistol event.

“First, I want to make the final,” Sanderson said. “Second, make it to the medal round. Third, I want to get a gold medal. I feel like I have to get a gold. I want to be the best U.S. pistol shooter in history.”

Sanderson, a nine-time World Cup medalist, finished fifth at the 2008 Beijing Games.

“Shooting competitively has allowed me to excel in something to the point where, at times, I have become the best in the world,” Sanderson said. “I already have the most World Cups. The only thing I’m missing is that Olympic gold medal.”

Race walker Staff Sgt. John Nunn of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program is scheduled to compete in his third Olympics in the 2016 Rio Games. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
Race walker Staff Sgt. John Nunn of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program is scheduled to compete in his third Olympics in the 2016 Rio Games. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

Nunn, 38, a native of Evansville, Indiana, who lives in Bonsall, California, also will be competing in his third Olympics. He finished 43rd in the men’s 50-kilometer race walk at the 2012 London Olympic Games with a personal-best time of 4 hours, 3 minutes and 28 seconds.

Earlier this year at the 2016 U.S. Olympic 50K Race Walk Team Trials, Nunn overcame the flu to win the race and improved his personal best to 4:03.21. He also plans to attempt to qualify for the 20-kilometer race walk event at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials on June 30 in Salem, Oregon.

“It would be fun to do both [the 50k and 20k in Rio de Janeiro], but 50K is what I’m good at and what I’ve held the [Olympic] standard for a couple years now,” Nunn said. “If I happen to hit the 20K standard that’s great. I’ll still make the 50K the priority in Rio and we’ll still race the 20K, but it becomes a great speed workout a week before the 50K, which is fine.”

The Olympic 20-kilometer race walk is scheduled for Aug. 12 at Fort Copacabana and the 50K is set for Aug. 19.

“We’ve had some really good workouts over the past few months where I’ve been able to just nail full through a 35K with a 4:30 pace per kilometer,” Nunn said, “which puts me right at like 3:45 for a 50K. There’s potential to set a huge personal record in Rio.”

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher, 23, will make his Olympic debut in modern pentathlon, a five-sport event consisting of fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, cross-country running and pistol shooting on Aug. 18 at Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher, 23, will make his Olympic debut in modern pentathlon, a five-sport event consisting of fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, cross-country running and pistol shooting on Aug. 18 at Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

Schrimsher, 23, a native of Roswell, New Mexico, now stationed at Fort Carson, will make his Olympic debut in modern pentathlon, a five-sport event consisting of fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, cross-country running and pistol shooting. After getting started in the sport at age 12, he soon began dreaming of becoming an Olympian. After three successful appearances in the Modern Pentathlon Junior World Championships, Schrimsher quickly climbed the ranks of the U.S. men’s senior division.

In July 2015, Schrimsher was the first individual named to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team after he finished third at the Pan American Games in Toronto to earn a berth in the 2016 Rio Games.

“A lot of people were telling me that I could relax because I didn’t have the pressure of qualifying anymore,” Schrimsher recalled. “But now the pressure to compete, and go win that gold, that’s on. It’s another set of pressure, but I’m ready for it.

“I just want to go and compete and do the best I can,” continued Schrimsher, who is scheduled to compete Aug. 18 and 20 in Rio. “I just feel like regular old Nathan from New Mexico, just doing my thing. I’m going to give it my best like I’ve always done.”

U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shotgun shooter Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller shoots during the opening round of Olympic men’s double trap qualification at the Royal Artillery Barracks range at the 2012 London Games. Eller, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, is scheduled to compete in his fifth Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shotgun shooter Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller shoots during the opening round of Olympic men’s double trap qualification at the Royal Artillery Barracks range at the 2012 London Games. Eller, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, is scheduled to compete in his fifth Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

Schrimsher upped the ante May 7 by posting the best American men’s performance in eight years on the Modern Pentathlon World Cup circuit with a seventh-place finish in the 2016 UIPM World Cup season finale in Sarasota, Florida. The last time a U.S. competitor placed higher was at the 2008 World Cup final, when Air Force Capt. Eli Bremer won the bronze medal and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program teammate Sgt. Dennis Bowsher was fourth.

Schrimsher competed in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where he finished 13th. In March, he won the gold medal at the Pan American and South American Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where his younger brother, also an Olympic hopeful, struck bronze.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail leaves the shooting line after competing in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. McPhail is scheduled to compete Aug. 15 in the men's 50-meter prone rifle event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail leaves the shooting line after competing in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. McPhail is scheduled to compete Aug. 15 in the men’s 50-meter prone rifle event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

“It’s amazing to be a Soldier and compete for the United States,” Schrimsher said. “It’s a big name we wear as athletes and I just want to represent it as best I can.”

Eller, 34, a native of Houston, will be competing in his fifth Olympics. He won the gold medal for double trap at the 2008 Beijing Games. Eller was named USA Shooting’s Athlete of the Year in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2013. In 2012, he deployed to Afghanistan as a marksmanship instructor after competing in the London Olympics. He is scheduled to compete Aug. 10 in Rio.

McPhail, 34, originally from Darlington, Wisconsin, missed making the prone rifle finals by three-tenths of a point at the 2012 London Olympics. He has won 10 medals in international competition, including two World Cup victories in 2015. McPhail is scheduled to compete Aug. 12 in the men’s 50-meter prone rifle event.

More Soldier-athletes and coaches remain in contention for spots on Team USA in shooting, rugby and track and field. Those selections will be made by late July.