Two sports were in play on Sunday (21 June) – the first chance to win medals in the cycling competition saw the British Armed Forces team claim four golds, a silver and three bronze, while the wheelchair basketball team were knocked out in the elimination round after a narrow loss.
Andy’s eyes help Chuck power to gold
British Armed Forces team cyclist Andy Perrin took gold in the men’s open upright cycling race, but not before helping a US comrade to victory.
Before he had the chance to psych himself up for his solo race, Andy, a veteran Army Sergeant from Barnet, had another race to complete. He had volunteered to be the pilot rider for a blind US Marine.
Veteran Lance Corporal Chuck Sketch, from Detroit, Michigan, lost his sight to a brain tumour and his legs to blood clots as part of his illness. The keen cyclist put out a request for support at the Warrior Games and despite being on the opposing team, Andy decided to help.
Andy Perrin said: “I volunteered to be a pilot because I thought I could help. I’ve never used a recumbent bike before but am up for trying anything. I enjoy cycling anyway but this was good fun. It’s a different technique using different muscles. I’m the eyes, he’s the power so it’s all about communication.”
The tandem bike is part recumbent and part hand cycle, the latter being the position, at the back, that Chuck is in.
Chuck Sketch said: “Andy was fabulous. He’s a strong rider and it was good riding with him. Cycling is the best thing, having the wind in your face. My bike was purpose built around six years ago and I find it better than upright cycling. It’s also fun to beat people who have legs on!
“It’s the most amazing thing to meet other wounded warriors. I usually ride with a different person every time and everyone seems to catch on quite quickly.”
Having finished the 10k race with Chuck, Andy had barely any time to catch his breath before jumping on his standard bike and cycling to gold again.
After completing both races Andy commented: “I got more back from riding with Chuck than I did in the solo race and we did really well despite starting slow. We had a couple of mechanical issues which meant it was more effort that I’d expected before my solo race but it was a good experience and he’s a really nice guy so I wanted to put that effort in.
“My solo race was really hard. I was knackered and straight away it was obvious there was a game plan with others trying to pull me back. I didn’t want to slow the pace down so I managed to drop ones and twos. I managed to close one guy out which left one to sprint out at the end. I did expect the game play and I’m very pleased with the result. I’m really happy to be here at the Warrior Games. Medals aren’t priority but it’s all a good experience.”
Andy joined Chuck on the podium as he collected his gold for the US Marines and then returned to collect his own well deserved gold medal.
Alongside Andy seven others from the British Armed Forces team placed on the podium: Gold medals went to Nerys Pearce in the women’s handcycle, Rob Cromey-Hawke in the men’s recumbent in his class and Mark Martin-Smith in the recumbent in his class. Paul Vice claimed silver in the recumbent in his class while bronze medals went to Evans Ofiso-Doe in the men’s upright, Danni Hampson-Carroll in the women’s handcycle and Gaz Golightly in the men’s handcycle.
Team captain Rob Cromey-Hawke, who won his race by some length, commented on the performance of his team: “The team were amazing. For the first medal event I was proud to step off and lead from the front to make a statement to the Americans that we’re not here to make up the numbers, as the General said at the opening ceremony. I’m very proud of everyone’s achievement, everyone pushed really hard, some at their personal limit, some even exceeded it.”
British Armed Forces wheelchair basketball player Kirsty Wallace summed up Sunday’s game: “Losing sucks!”
The comment was somewhat tongue in cheek after a series of positive notions from her teammates following a close loss to the US Army in their rematch of Saturday’s round robin game which ended 36-31 in the Army’s favour with BAF being eliminated. Their team spirit showed through as they focused on the good points and how to move forward in future competitions.
Courage and determination was obvious. A slow start gave the Army a chance to take and hold the lead, which was possibly the downfall as the team were then playing a game of chase for the duration. They entered half time 7-16 down. Refreshed from a team talk in the break, the British team were on a mission to win or go down fighting in the second half. It turned out to be the latter, but the fight included contending with two tyre blowouts, a floor repair (gaffer tape) and a malfunctioning clock.
The Army reached their winning number four minutes to time with BAF on 21 points. In those final four minutes, the underdogs gained another 10 points giving a glimmer of hope that they might just win. It wasn’t to be, but it was a phenomenal effort.