Around the Marine Corps Base we keep hearing about the spirit of the Warrior Games. It’s easy to say, but what does that mean?
On Monday (23 June) Nerys Pearce, a veteran Army Corporal who is paralysed from the chest down, was set to compete in the athletics field events seated shot put and seated discus. She was looking forward to taking part, despite not having previous experience in these sports.
In the seated category of these events, competitors transfer to a specially made chair that can be moved to the preferred angle then secured to make sure of no movement, with the participant strapped in for support.
The British Armed Forces support team from Help for Heroes helped Nerys into the chair for her first competition, the shot put. It soon became apparent that the low level back and lack of upper body support meant she couldn’t sit up straight in the provided chair. It wasn’t possible for her to compete.
Noticing the problem Nerys was having, Roy Rodriguez who is part of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) team, knew he had a solution. He had designed and made a chair for people like Nerys, with severe upper body injuries, to compete in field sports. He had the chair at the competition and offered it to Nerys to allow her to compete. Problem solved.
But Roy’s help didn’t stop there. He spent time with Nerys throughout the day, offering her technical and tactical support and giving her coaching advice prior to her shot put and discus events. His generosity empowered Nerys to compete and his advice helped her win gold in both competitions.
Roy, a former staff sergeant, lost his leg in a motorcycle accident after coming home from his sixth tour of Iraq. Not long after buying his bike, he was hit by a drunk driver of a late afternoon one day in Texas. It took him 65 days to take his first step on his prosthetic since his amputation. Just 16 months later he re-joined his unit and two months on was serving once again, this time in Afghanistan. He retired after 20 years of service last year.
Roy said: “The saying goes ‘giving up is not in our creed’. You can say it all you want but until you live it you don’t know what it means.
“I was helping with anything that Nerys needed to win a medal. Anything that the British team walks away with is a medal the Marines don’t get!
“The Warrior Games brings people together in different ways, through equipment or technique advice. Everyone has cohesiveness but everyone is still competing. Nerys is using a SOCOM chair that she didn’t know existed until the morning of the competition and she has been able to win gold and exceeded what she had ever thought she’d be able to do. That to me is giving me more than anything I can ever win.”
Nerys said: “It was a great show of spirit for Roy to let me borrow the chair he had designed for people like me to compete. When you’re injured you set limitations on yourself. I’d never taken part in field events before but the Warrior Games allows you to give anything a go and open up your boundaries. It’s really inspiring watching some of the guys compete and to see how well they’re doing is amazing.
“Winning gold is something I never thought possible. Roy has a great personality; he’s really cheerful and couldn’t do enough to help. He’s asking my advice on how the chair he has designed could be improved which shows how much he really wants to help people. The fact he’s given up his time for me even though he’s got his own team here is great.
“Without him my day would have been over.”
Roy summarised what keeps shining through every day at the Warrior Games: “Even though we’re not on the same team, we’re still all part of the same team.”
Building a medal collection
Nerys wasn’t the only one who triumphed in the field event. Her team mates pulled in a medal haul of which they should be proud. Alongside Nerys, Carolyne Dufley also won a double gold in the shot put and discus in her class, Danni Hampson-Carroll claimed silver in the discus and bronze in the shot put, Kirsty Wallace and Mary Wilson both did the opposite and got silver in the shot put and bronze in the discus, and Darren Carew got a silver in discus and a silver in shot. Danny Hutchison also secured the bronze in shot.
Six hours in 35 degrees Celsius heat is no mean feat, but looking at the 13 medals won, you’d never have known it.
Track athletes go for a paddle
The track competition was well under way on the evening of 23 June with plenty of medal prospects when news of an impending storm was announced. Shortly afterwards the storm did indeed roll in with thunder, lightning, torrential rain, 60mph winds and exceptionally large hail stones. Teams and spectators took shelter in the gym where the decision was taken to reschedule the rest of the event to later in the week. A good decision it seems. On exiting the building it appeared the athletics stadium was underwater with one teammate suggesting to the other he should get his canoe out as he may stand a better chance of winning!