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Air Force captures 18 medals at Warrior Games

(U.S. Air Force graphic, photo/Val Gempis)

(U.S. Air Force graphic, photo/Val Gempis)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Air Force brought home a team-record 18 medals April 30 through May 5 during the 3rd annual Warrior Games here.

The team medaled in volleyball and wheelchair basketball for the first time. Athletes representing the Air Force earned two silver and one gold medal in swimming, two silver and one bronze in cycling; and two gold, three silver and four bronze in track and field.

"I think we exceeded all expectations," said Maj. (Dr.) James Bales, the Air Force team coach. Bales is part of the 21st Force Support Squadron.  "The goal for the team was just to come out here and perform at the best of their ability, and they did that this week. They performed well, and the results of that were a huge sense of teamwork (and) camaraderie. It equated to the best performance the Air Force has had in three years."

The athletes, from all branches of the U.S. military and the British Armed Forces, competed in five individual sports: archery, shooting, swimming, track and field and cycling, and two team events: sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. The majority of the events were hosted at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the opening ceremony and shooting were held at the Olympic Training Center.

"Whether you won a medal or not, whether your team won the competition or not, every single one of you who competed in these games is a champion," said Navy. Adm. James Winnefield Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Every one of you has proven there is no challenge too great, no hurdle too difficult for a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman."

The games are designed to introduce ill, injured or wounded service members to Paralympic sports. The Air Force team comprised of active duty and Reserve Airmen from across the country who still wish to represent the Air Force. Their injuries range from post-traumatic-stress disorder to quadriplegia.

Winnefield presented The Chairman's Cup and Ultimate Champion award during the closing ceremony May 5. The Marine Corp team won the Chairman's Cup for the third year running. The Chairman's Cup is presented on behalf of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to the team with the most cumulative medal points.

Marine Jonathan Disbro was named Ultimate Champion for the second year. The Ultimate Champion is the athlete who has earned the most individual medal points by competing in at least five specific individual events.

The ceremony concluded with a performance by the Army Regional Band High Altitude.

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