Tag Archives: U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program

WCAP NCO forced to skip last race, but still closes strong at Rio Paralympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks bowed out of what would have been her final race at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

But that didn’t rob fans of seeing her finish her inaugural Games in impressive fashion.

The Paralympic swimmer from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, said Saturday on Twitter that she would not participate in the SM8 200-meter individual medley competition, which was scheduled for that day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, due to an undisclosed medical issue. Her message exhibited the unselfishness that has garnered Marks so much attention this year.

“I didn’t have my best to give, but another girl might,” the tweet stated.

But Marks’ best was definitely on display the previous night.

On Friday, Marks swam the second leg of the women’s 4×100 medley relay. The Americans finished in third place behind Great Britain and Australia. While the finish wasn’t golden, the fact that the U.S. team was able to reach the podium at all was an impressive feat given its difficult start. And Marks began turning the tide.

Hannah Aspden struggled as she swam the opening backstroke leg of the medley. She fell about five meters behind the pace of the leaders and came to the end of her 100-meter swim in fifth place, with sixth-place Japan not far behind. That’s when Marks went to work.

The 26-year-old swam the breaststroke leg, the same event in which she had already claimed a Paralympic gold medal. Marks’ effort during the medley was frenzied. She managed to speed into fourth place past the Netherlands before the turn. From there she closed the gap on third-place Canada to less than 10 meters. Marks did this despite being in the pool with five swimmers who compete in faster disability classifications. She would finish the leg with a time of 1:28.52, not even a half-second slower than her winning time of 1:28.13 in the SB7 100-meter breaststroke the previous weekend, which set a new world record.

It was prime position for her teammates Elizabeth Smith and Michelle Konkoly to wrest third-place away from Canada. It also ended up being the end to her time in Brazil. Marks finished the Games with a gold and bronze medal, fitting hardware for a Soldier and competitor who has been in the headlines throughout the year.

Marks gained international attention earlier this year after asking Prince Harry to take one of the gold medals she won at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. Marks wanted the British royal to give the medal to the English hospital that saved her life. In 2014, while traveling to the Invictus Games in London, Marks fell ill and required a lifesaving procedure at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. She missed the Games that year, but said she was lucky to come home alive. Offering her medal to the hospital was the best way she could say “thank you.” The gesture caught the world’s attention, culminating with her being awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs in July.

Her ordeal in England wasn’t the first time Marks underwent a stint in the hospital. She suffered bilateral hip injuries while deployed to Iraq as a combat medic in 2010. Those injuries are what pushed Marks to the pool in the first place. She has previously stated that she hopes her accomplishments can offer faith and optimism to her fellow wounded Soldiers.

Now, armed with medals earned on the grandest stage in sports, it appears Marks will remain a beacon of hope for quite some time.

NCO posts highest finish for American man in rifle prone at Rio Paralympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Staff Sgt. John Joss may not have reached the medal stand Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the 2016 Paralympic Games, but the four-year member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit certainly proved his name belongs alongside the shooting world’s elite.

Joss started the day next to 40 of the world’s best shooters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, competing in the mixed R6-50-meter rifle prone competition. By day’s end, his scores netted him a fifth-place finish. It was the highest finish for an American man at the competition.

While not bringing home any hardware is certainly disappointing, the top-five finish showcased Joss’ deftness with the rifle in his first Paralympics. He qualified for the medal round after a sixth-place finish in outdoor qualification amid blustery conditions. National Paralympic Coach Bob Foth said Joss made smart decisions throughout qualification in reading wind speed and movement. Once action moved indoors for the finals, Joss improved his standing by one position.

Staff Sgt. John Joss placed fifth in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone event Sept. 14 at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (File photo courtesy of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit)
Staff Sgt. John Joss placed fifth in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone event Sept. 14 at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (File photo courtesy of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit)

“This is totally different than anything I’ve ever done before,” Joss told USA Shooting after the competition. “I felt calm and on fire at the same time. I know I was working with a kind of shaky hold. I was making smart decisions, but there isn’t much I could do at the end. I did the best I could, and I really took a lot out of it. It’s hard to hit a target that small alone, then when you have an elevated heart rate, a pulse in your hand and your front sight starts moving around, it makes it a lot harder.”

Joss’ performance is also testament to how far he has come since sustaining both physical injuries and emotional hardship in 2007. Joss had both of his legs seriously injured in an improvised explosive device attack while deployed north of Baghdad, Iraq. He returned to the United States to undergo multiple surgeries and begin a grueling rehabilitation process before he was dealt another blow — Joss’ father was killed in a vehicle accident two months after his arrival at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Joss subsequently made the difficult decision to amputate his right leg. He began shooting competitively at Fort Benning, Georgia, to supplement his rehabilitation. Joss soon found success. He joined the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, he won gold at the USA Shooting National Championships. Two years later, he has served notice to the rest of the shooting world that he will be a force in the coming years.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks broke a Paralympic swimming world record in winning her first gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marks won the women's 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1.28:13. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)
Sgt. Elizabeth Marks broke a Paralympic swimming world record in winning her first gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marks won the women’s 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1.28:13. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)

WCAP swimmer back in action

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks returns to the pool Thursday, Sept. 15, for the first of three events she is scheduled to compete in.

The Paralympic swimmer from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program competes in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay Sept. 15. She will swim the 4×100-meter medley relay Friday, Sept. 16, and closes the Rio Paralympics in the SM8 200-meter individual medley.

Marks has already claimed one gold medal at these Paralympics, winning the SB7 100-meter breaststroke with a world record time during the weekend.

WCAP NCO wins gold by smashing Paralympic swimming record

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

She continues to make her Marks.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a medic and Paralympic swimmer who is part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, offered a reminder of why she’s captured the world’s attention this year with her performance Saturday at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 25-year-old set a new world record en route to winning a gold medal in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. She finished the race in the SB7 division, a disability swimming classification, with a time of 1.28:13, more than four seconds ahead of her American teammate Jessica Long, who won silver. Lisa Deb Braber of the Netherlands took bronze.

“I had no idea (I was winning),” Marks told reporters after the race. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”

Marks’ impairments stem from the bilateral hip injuries she sustained while deployed as a combat medic to Iraq in 2010. She underwent several painful surgeries and exhaustive rehabilitation before finally being deemed fit for duty in July 2012. Along the way, Marks took up swimming as a means to assist in her recovery. She was pushed to compete in her newfound sport when she saw the hope it offered her fellow wounded Soldiers.

But her health suffered another setback in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the inaugural Invictus Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually taken to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said later that she was fortunate to be alive.

A month after her ordeal in England, Marks was swimming again. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9 200-meter breaststroke.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks broke a Paralympic swimming world record in winning her first gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marks won the women's 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1.28:13. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)
Sgt. Elizabeth Marks broke a Paralympic swimming world record in winning her first gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marks won the women’s 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1.28:13. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)

Marks made international headlines earlier this year for her gesture of immense gratitude and humility at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

She 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 that allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, she gave the award back.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to the hospital that helped save her life. Her request was honored June 1.

In July, Marks became the first active-duty service member to be presented with the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs, an awards show that recognizes grand achievements in sports.

Now, two months later, she is a gold medalist and world-record holder in her Paralympics debut. And she may not be done yet. Marks is scheduled to compete in four other swimming events during the games beginning with the S8 100-meter backstroke Tuesday.

Archer remains in hunt for medal

Staff Sgt. Michael Lukow’s aim was true.

The infantryman and Paralympic archer in the WCAP advanced to the medal rounds of the men’s individual recurve bow competition after his performance Saturday.

Lukow advanced past the ranking round with a score of 577, the day’s 23rd best mark. He will face Lung-Hui Tseng of Chinese Taipei in the round of 32 on Tuesday.

Saturday also saw Staff Sgt. John Joss compete in the mixed R3 10-meter rifle prone competition. Joss did not qualify for the medal round but his time in Rio is not complete. He will compete in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone competition Wednesday.

 

Soldiers shine at Olympics as runner wins, loses, wins silver medal

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

While he holds the distinction of being an All-American runner from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Spc. Paul Chelimo never won an NCAA championship.

Now, he’s an Olympic medalist.

But the path to the silver medal claimed by Chelimo on Saturday night in the men’s 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright unusual.

The 25-year-old water treatment specialist and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, stayed with the front of the pack of 15 runners throughout the race. He opened up his stride in the final 150 meters to outkick every competitor save for the exceptional Mohamed Farah. Farah won the 10,000 and 5,000 in Rio, the same pair of races he won at the 2012 London Olympics.

But Chelimo’s second-place finish was astounding, considering he was relatively unheralded and needed a frenetic effort at the end of his semifinal qualifying race just to earn a spot in the final. Nonetheless, Chelimo finished the final with a personal best time of 13:03:90, and the American celebration began as his second-place effort meant the first American medal in the race since 1964.

But on the way to a television interview, officials dropped a bombshell – Chelimo was disqualified. He was notified during the interview. A crestfallen Chelimo stepped back from the microphone but continued the interview.

“My intention was not to impede anyone,” Chelimo said.

Spc. Paul Chelimo, center, opens up his stride in the final 150 meters of the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Spc. Paul Chelimo, center, opens up his stride in the final 150 meters of the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Just like that, Chelimo’s impressive feat was nullified. Television replays showed his left foot land slightly out of bounds while rounding a curve. He could also be seen extending his arm while bumping occurred among the pack of runners. Neither of these actions is uncommon in distance running and officials have discretion when considering whether they give runners unfair advantages. In Chelimo’s case, the initial verdict was lane infringement.

But this edition of the Olympics has not been without unique appeals. The U.S. women’s 4×100 relay team successfully lobbied to rerun their race after they complained of being impeded by Brazilian runners. They went on to win the gold medal.

U.S. track officials appealed Chelimo’s disqualification immediately. After further review by the governing International Associations of Athletics Federations, Chelimo was reinstated as the silver medalist an hour after being stripped of the honor.

“Now, I’m really happy,” Chelimo told reporters after the successful appeal. “It’s the best feeling ever. It’s the best, best feeling ever.”

NCO helps lead boxer into history

Team USA’s Olympic gold-medal drought for men’s boxers will last 16 years.

But one of the country’s female boxers vaulted herself into the annals of boxing with her performance Sunday. And an NCO from WCAP had a hand in it.

Claressa Shields beat Nouchka Fountijn of the Netherlands by unanimous decision for the women’s middleweight boxing title. It was Shields’ second consecutive gold medal win, having previously claimed the prize at the 2012 London Olympics. Shields is the first American to win back-to-back gold medals.

One of the coaches that helped her make history is an NCO.

Sgt. 1st Class Joe Guzman is part of the coaching staff led by Billy Walsh. For Guzman, who is an assistant boxing coach for WCAP, 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.

The coaching staff led bantamweight Shakur Stevenson to the gold-medal match Saturday but fell short against Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana.

NCO completes pentathlon

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher entered the final day of action in the modern pentathlon in ninth-place overall after an impressive day of fencing.

But the 24-year-old motor transport operator and WCAP member couldn’t close the gap. Schrimsher finished in 11th place among the field of 36 athletes. He was the only American competing in the pentathlon.

The best performance by an American in the competition came in 1912 when George S. Patton, the man who would eventually become a famed U.S. Army general, finished in fifth place at the Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

NCO ranked in top 10 heading into final day of modern pentathlon

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

No American has ever won the modern pentathlon since its inception at the Olympic Games in 1912. An NCO is in a decent position to be the first.

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher heads into the final day of the competition Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in ninth place overall. Schrimsher, a motor transport operator and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, is America’s lone competitor in the modern pentathlon. The 24-year-old is being coached at the Olympics by fellow WCAP member and 2012 Olympian, Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher.

The modern pentathlon is rooted in military endeavors, Schrimsher told the Albuquerque Tribune last month. The competition — which consists of fencing, swimming, jumping, running and shooting — is comprised of events that a 19th century cavalry Soldier would have to be proficient in.

“He had to have the ability to ride a horse he had never met before, to be able to cross land or water by running or swimming, and then be able to defend himself with a sword and gun to deliver the message across enemy lines to the commander,” Schrimsher said.

Schrimsher showed his savvy with the épée sword during the first day of competition Thursday. He scored 20 wins, good for 220 points and a No. 9 ranking. The competition concludes Saturday with the swimming, jumping and run-shoot events.

No matter the outcome, Schrimsher said he is grateful to represent his country both on sports’ biggest stage and as a Soldier.

“The Army has supported me for three years,” he said. “Without that support it would be extremely hard on me. But it’s an honor to be able to represent not only my country through athletic perspective, but to represent the Army is awesome.”

NCO leads 2 boxers into gold-medal bouts

Team USA boxing will have two shots at a gold medal.

Claressa Shields punched her ticket to the women’s middleweight gold-medal match after beating Kazakhstan’s Dariga Shakimova by unanimous decision Friday in their semifinal match. Shields joins Shakur Stevenson (men’s bantamweight) as the two U.S. boxers remaining 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 the pair returns to the ring for action Friday and Sunday, 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.

Shields will fight Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands on Sunday. Stevenson faces Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana on Saturday.

Nunn competes in 50k race walk

Staff Sgt. John Nunn finished 42nd out of 80 competitors in the 50-kilometer race walking competition Friday.

Despite missing out on a medal, finishing the race was momentous enough for the dental hygiene specialist. Nunn, a WCAP member, was in danger of missing out on his third Olympic berth earlier this year before mustering the fortitude that has made him a standout Soldier.

Nunn was stricken by the flu during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which took place February in Santee, California. In order to qualify, Nunn was told he would have to finish the race in order to punch his ticket to Rio despite having previously attained the “A” standard time required for the team at a race two months earlier.

So with a body temperature topping 100 degrees, chills, aches and swollen eyes, Nunn took to the track and ended up winning with a personal best time.

Nunn finished the race Friday with a time of 4:16:12.

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher fences during modern pentathlon competition at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, in this July 2015 photo. Schrimsher is ranked ninth overall heading into the final day of competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher fences during modern pentathlon competition at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, in this July 2015 photo. Schrimsher is ranked ninth overall heading into the final day of competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)