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.
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.
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.
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.
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
About 125 wounded, ill and injured active-duty Soldiers and Army veterans from across the country competed March 6-10 in the Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas. The athletes are seeking the opportunity to represent Team Army at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, which will be held June 14-22 at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
During the week of competition, wounded warriors competed in archery, cycling, track and field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming and wheelchair basketball. Coaches and leaders will now assess the results, and the chosen athletes will receive an official invitation to join Team Army. Approximately 250 athletes representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command will compete in the DoD Warrior Games this year.
Recovery through sports
The trials are part of the Army Warrior Care and Transition program, which aids in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans as they transition back into the force or the civilian community.
“Our adaptive reconditioning program is a critical part of warriors’ transition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew T. Brady, command sergeant major for the Warrior Transition Command, in an interview with the NCO Journal last year. “It’s not just a sports program. It’s a program of activity in support of the surgeon general’s Performance Triad — sleep, proper nutrition and activity. For many of these Soldiers, this is kind of their ‘new norm’ — picking up activities they may have never tried before. It’s a new outlet. So if you look at the shooting, it takes concentration, the ability to block out distractions, a great amount of discipline — and these are all things that set you up for other tasks in life.”
In addition to aiding in their physical and mental recovery, these sports give Soldiers a new passion and something to look forward to doing when they leave the military, Brady said. Veterans Affairs and civilian organizations offer adaptive sports programs all over the nation, and sponsors often help defray the cost. Transition coordinators within every Warrior Transition Unit work to connect Soldiers with these organizations when they leave, Brady said, as should NCOs across the Army as they help injured and ill Soldiers prepare for life outside the military.
“We have them for maybe two years, but these Soldiers will be veterans for the rest of their lives,” Brady said. “We have got to set them up for success down the road.
“I hope NCOs realize I only have a certain number of these individuals in this Integrated Disability Evaluation System process — I only have a fraction of them. The majority of them are out in the force. They are out in the force and being led by NCOs, and as they go through the challenges of recovery, these same sports are available to them. What I need NCOs to do is to support this type of activity because that individual is going to leave our military, and we don’t want them becoming sedentary. We don’t want them leaving and feeling like they don’t have something to look forward to. I need NCOs’ support.”
(U.S. Army photos and photos by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Wounded warrior athletes on the Army team are more confident than ever that they will take home the Chairman’s Cup again this year at the conclusion of the Department of Defense Warrior Games, which will take place from June 19-28 at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith, who this year will compete in the games for the second time, said there is no doubt in his mind that the Army will leave the games again with the cup, which is awarded to the service branch with the highest medal total. “Last year was the first year that we won the Chairman’s Cup, so I’m definitely looking forward to competing against the other branches and bringing that trophy home again.”
Smith is among the 40 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans picked to defend the Army’s title against the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and the British armed forces. The athletes were selected from about 75 veterans and active-duty Soldiers who competed in March during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, in cycling, shooting, archery, track and field, wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball and swimming.
Smith, who will compete in swimming, track, field, cycling and sitting volleyball, said he speaks for the whole team when he says he is proud to have been selected.
“It means everything to me to represent the Army at the Warrior Games, because I believe in the Army. If it wasn’t for the Army, I wouldn’t be the type of man I am today. I wouldn’t be the father that I am today. I wouldn’t be the friend I am today. So to be able to represent something I truly believe in and love is an honor.”
This will be the first year that the games are hosted by a service branch instead of at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Though the majority of the crowd in Quantico will be cheering on the Marine Corps, Smith said he and his teammates are not worried.
“That makes it that much sweeter – to beat them in their own house,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to smash them again and look them in the eyes and tell them that we beat them on their home turf. I’m looking forward to that.”
Recovery through sports
The athletes train for the games as part of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command’s Army Warrior Care and Transition program, which aids in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans as they prepare themselves for life back in the force or as civilians.
Smith is the first Soldier with an above-the-elbow amputation to remain on active duty, and he credits the sports program for his success.
In 2011, Smith’s motorcycle was rear-ended. He flew over a freeway median, then was hit by an oncoming truck before crashing into the ground. He is blessed to be alive, Smith said, and is grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve.
“If it wasn’t for the Warrior Transition Command and the Warrior Games, and everything they provide, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now,” Smith said.
In December, Smith began his duties as a recruiting center commander in Little Rock, Ark. He is in charge of 25 NCO recruiters, and said he is aware of how much they look up to him. He hopes that, through his example, they will see that an injury in no way lessens a leader’s influence.
“No matter your situation – whether it is physical, mental, emotional or whatever the case may be – Soldiers still look up to you,” Smith said. “If you are an NCO, a noncommissioned officer, you are still supposed to lead from the front – no matter what. That is my whole reason for coming back to active duty. I’m a leader. I’m a senior NCO. I didn’t make E7 by sleeping. The Army instilled in me the leadership skills that I have, and I want to continue to lead.”
Always striving for a new goal
Even after all Smith has accomplished, he has not stopped creating fresh goals for himself.
He hopes to one day work for the Warrior Transition Command to recruit other athletes, set up camps and motivate wounded warriors. He said he knows that if they can be inspired to give it their best, they will be competitive in their sports, in their recovery and in life.
“If you can learn to swim with one arm, learn to run with a prosthetic, if you can tackle that goal and defeat that, any other obstacle that comes your way in life, you are going to take that same approach, and just know that you can do it,” Smith said.
Smith is also still striving toward new goals as an athlete. He has been training to join the USA Skeleton Sled team, and is determined to take home the title of “Ultimate Warrior” from next year’s Warrior Games.
“I would have to place in every event they offer. It’s something I wanted to go for this year, but because I am working in recruiting, I didn’t have the ability to go to any shooting camps. Next year, that is definitely my goal. I will be the Ultimate Warrior next year. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Following is a list of athletes on the 2015 Army team. The list is subject to change. For more information and to view coach and team-member bios, click here.
· Staff Sgt. Ashley Anderson, Fort Riley, Kan.
· Spc. Anthony Atemon, Fort Bragg, N.C.
· Staff Sgt. Thomas Ayers, Clarksville, Tenn.
· Spc. Dustin Barr, Fort Bragg, N.C.
· Capt. Frank Barroqueiro, Gainesville, Ga.
· Capt. Steven Bortle, Pearl City, Hawaii
· Spc. Terry Cartwright, Fort Belvoir, Va.
· Spc. Laurel Cox, Fort Belvoir, Va.
· Spc. Sydney Davis, Fort Belvoir, Va.
· 1st Lt. Kelly Elmlinger, Joint Base San Antonio
· Staff Sgt. Randi Gavell, Oklahoma City, Okla.
· Sgt. 1st Class Samantha Goldenstein, Saint Robert, Miss.
· Sgt. Colton Harms, Fort Riley, Kan.
· Sgt. Sean Hook, Summerville, S.C.
· Sgt. Blake Johnson, Bethesda, Md.
· Staff Sgt. Sean Johnson, Aberdeen, S.D.
· Sgt. Kawaiola Nahale, Fort Shafter, Hawaii
· Spc. Chasity Kuczer, Fort Knox, Ky.
· Sgt. 1st Class Katie Kuiper, San Antonio, Texas
· Spc. Stefan Leroy, Bethesda, Md.
· Staff Sgt. Monica Martinez, Bethesda, Md.
· Staff Sgt. Andrew McCaffrey, Arlington, Va.
· Staff Sgt. Michael McPhall, Bethesda, Md.
· Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks, Las Cruces, N.M.
· Cpl. Mathew Mueller, Fort Carson, Colo.
· Master Sgt. Rhoden Galloway, San Antonio, Texas
· Staff Sgt. Eric Pardo, San Antonio, Texas
· 1st Lt. Christopher Parks, Fort Hood, Texas
· Staff Sgt. Timothy Payne, Raleigh, N.C.
· Cpl. Jasmine Perry, Fort Campbell, Ky.
· Sgt. Zedrik Pitts, Birmingham, Ala.
· Spc. Haywood Range, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
· Capt. Will Reynolds, Bethesda, Md.
· Staff Sgt. Alexander Shaw, Clarksville, Tenn.
· Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Sifuentes, Fort Riley, Kan.
· Staff Sgt. Monica Southall, Henrico, Va.
· Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith, Little Rock, Ark
· Sgt. Patrick Timmins, Colorado Springs, Colo.
· Sgt. Nicholas Titman, Fort Carson, Colo.
· Sgt. Ricardo Villalobos, Winston Salem, N.C.
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