To say that today has been awesome would be to entirely under exaggerate; to be honest, I wish that the English Dictionary had a word that could accurately describe just how amazing today has been. As there isn’t, I’ll just have to stick with awesome! For me, today caught the light and sparkled like a diamond.
The day started early, with the bus leaving for Randolph Air Force Base at 07:00 and considering how much effort yesterday’s training took, I was amazed at how chipper and chirpy everyone was. This group of people really are all exceptionally wonderful, and downright inspirational.
Each has their own cross to bear, whether that be chronic, debilitating pain, having to get through life missing 1, 2 or 3 limbs or even knowing that your condition will get worst eventually. However, these guys and girls see each day as a gift, one to be grasped hold of and made the most of. To me, that is the most inspiring thing, and really a wonderful gift. These guys and girls have taught me that no matter how bad a day you are having, there is always room for a laugh and a smile.
Anyway, back to today! The teams are coming along in leaps and bounds, working together to get the job done. The format for the competition element of the camp is a round robin, with 5 teams competing in each event.
The first team up was our Invictus Games hopefuls for Wheelchair Basketball, and they really were thrown in at the deep end, competing against the San Antonio Spurs – who are a professional Wheelchair Basketball Team, which just so happens to include three Medal winning Paralympian’s! However, our guys didn’t back down, nor were they afraid – they brought it! (I’m told that’s a sporting term, by those far cooler than I!) Our guys made the Spurs fight for every point, and even managed to get 12 points up on the board, which was an amazing achievement in itself. So, even though they lost the match, really, in everyone’s eyes they were total winners. Perhaps the highlight for many was the oportunity to meet none other than Gold Medal Paralympian, Rico Roman! He is such an inspirational guy and really shows those who have been newly injured that there is absolutely a sporting life beyond injury.
Next up was our Sitting Volleyball team, who took to the court to face a fierce and strong US Air Force Team, who really made our team work for every point they won. Even though our guys didn’t win, it was a well-played game and considering there were quite a few new players on our team, it was a good effort and result. One of our players is a kind and funny guy called Lamin, who is also a triple amputee who has only been playing Sitting Volleyball for about a month. He put in an outstanding effort and demonstrated such skill that Charlie, the team’s player/coach said: “Lamin, I’m going to drug test you for Awesome.” Everyone fell about laughing at that point!
Something that was really tangible today was the camaraderie and friendship that our guys and girls are developing; it was fantastic to see how they all pulled together and had each other’s backs. A particularly memorable moment was when Carolyne, who has a spinal cord injury, was pushing Corie, who is a double amputee, in a wheelchair and Corie had Lamin, a triple amputee on his lap… this was their way of getting to the court and the perfect example of how team spirited they are!
Our Sitting Volleyball players had a fairly packed schedule, with their first three games all within a few hours of each other. They won their second game against the US Army and looked to be getting stronger and more cohesive with every play.
For their third game, they were facing Team USA, which is a high-performance level team one step away from the Paralympic team. So, as you can imagine tough opponents who were going to make our guys work hard.
The British Armed Forces vs Team USA was probably the best match of the day, and both teams seemed fairly evenly matched. Team USA took the first set, with British Armed Forces putting in a solid performance in the second set to win it. So, everything hinged on the third and final set. The first to 15 points would win the game. Now, let me tell you, every single point of that final set was hard fought, with some great volleys, fast and accurate serves and both teams really putting on their A-game. Team USA won the third set 15 – 12, so with only 3 points in it, it really could have gone either way. It really was a great game of Volleyball with solid performances from both teams.
After a long break, our Wheelchair Basketball team we’re up next, taking on the US Marines and this was a game that we were all looking forward to watching. Well, our guys did an amazing job, working as a team the whole time and demonstrating some great skill and talent. Their hard work, determination and skill paid off and our guys were victorious, beating the US Marines 21 – 7!
The US Marines only had one team with them, to play both Wheelchair Basketball and Sitting Volleyball, so with a quick change after two back-to-back Wheelchair Basketball games, the US Marines took to the Sitting Volleyball court to face our Sitting Volleyball Team. Even though the Marines had obviously been working hard, they put up a good fight and really made our guys work for their win, which they secured in two straight sets.
The final game of the day for the British Armed Forces Basketball Team saw the Harker Heights Hustlers take on our guys, who were looking strong and playing really well. Our Invictus Games hopefuls started out really strong and secured a 4 -0 lead within five minutes, and they carried that momentum forward to end the 1st half 12 – 10 up. In the 2nd half, the Hustlers really rallied, showing their experience and skill and managed to snatch the win from our guys. However, with an end of match score line of 24 – 22 to the Hustlers, clearly the game could have gone either way.
So, at the end of day 1 of competition, our heroes came away feeling rightly proud of the performances they had put in. Our Sitting Volleyball players are sitting nicely with two wins under their belts. The big competition for day 2 will be the US Air Force, who dominated day one, winning all four of their games! For our Basketball players, they’ve won one of their three games, so have a great platform to build on tomorrow. And, with the determination and sheer force of will that our team have in bucketful’s there is no knowing what will happen on the court tomorrow.
Once our guys and girls had finished their games, we all piled back into the Bus and headed back to our hotel. Despite their tiredness almost all came out for supper to eat as a team. We’re just loving how great the team spirit is and we couldn’t be prouder of each and every one of our heroes.
After supper the manager of the restaurant we were eating at brought out about eight puddings, which we’d not ordered. Thinking there had been a mix-up we said something only to find out they were on the house, once again demonstrating just how amazing the people of San Antonio are! We did find out that there was an ulterior motive though – the manager is a US Marine Veteran, who had heard that we’d beaten the Marines today! He wanted to slow us done for day 2!
Tomorrow sees the final day of competition, so we’re expecting our guys to ‘bring it’ as I am sure they will want to finish strong. Whatever happens, in our eyes they are already victorious and amazing, wonderful and inspiring individuals!
Once again, we’ll be live tweeting throughout the day – so come over to twitter at around 14:00 UK time and cheer along our guys by tweeting @H4H_SR.
If you'd like to support our heroes along their sporting roads to recovery then you can donate to Help for Heroes Sports Recovery. Either, visit http://www.bmycharity.com/h4hsportsrecovery and leave a donation of your choice, or text SPORT to 70900 to donate £5. 100% of the £5 comes to Help for Heroes. (You will be charged £5 plus your standard network rate. Mobile networks helpline: 01494 750 500)