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Warrior Games: Athletes' Fight

Athletes in Motion
Athletes in Motion
Veteran News
Veteran News
July 3, 2017
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This year's Warrior Games is truly unique: for the first time in its eight year history, the event is being held in a public venue, and not on a military base. The City of Chicago has opened its arms to the members of this incredible community of veterans and service members -- a community that has come from all over the country, and from some parts of the world.Some of the Warrior Games athletes have been competing for a few years in these events, but others are here for the first time. Each individual athlete faces their own unique challenges, and has their own story. Here are just a few that we have encountered in the last few days:

Ryan Shannon - US Navy (1st Class Petty Officer)

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Ryan Shannon with his service dog, Chelsea (Photo: Sylvia Gaenzle)[/caption]Competitions: Seated Volleyball, Swimming, TrackRyan Shannon has competed in previous games, and his favorite competition, by far, is in volleyball."I put a lot into [the sport]; I'm a part of the Paralympic developmental program with the US team. I put a lot of blood and sweat into volleyball and getting the game together. Coming out, going undefeated so far, and then playing for the gold this week -- it's everything we've been training for.""Last year was my first games; I'm from Chicago, so being from here and having it in my own hometown, in my backyard... [watching] how it was planned and seeing how things came together and now experiencing it, it's a little different for me than for some of the other athletes. It's incredible," he said.For Shannon, watching the members of his team come together this year has been a rewarding experience."It's funny because some new rules got introduced this year, so we lost a lot of, like, the old squad. And we weren't necessarily a 'team' until we showed up here. [We had] new guys and old guys, and they kind of just threw us together. But watching it, this is one of the best teams that I've seen come together in the Navy history of the Warrior Games. Everybody's cheering, we don't have voices any more... it feels like we're a big family," he explained.Shannon encouraged not only Warrior Games athletes but spectators to take the lessons learned from the games and apply them to life."If you're going through something, and doctors, psychiatrists, I don't care who they are -- if they tell you that you can't do something... they told me that too. And I'm here doing it, so take their advice with a grain of salt. If you feel like you can do it and you want to do it, go figure out how to do it. There are people out there who will help you get there," he said.

Christopher Cochrane: Air Force

Competitions: None - Christopher is a part of the first Service Ambassador Program at the games, helping teams and newcomers experience the games in the best way possible.Cochrane's wife, Ashley, explained the role of the Service Ambassador Program, and the responsibilities involved."Chris competed last year in swimming, cycling, and field events, so he has a good idea of what it means to be here for the first time. So they brought us in to cheer the teams on and be here to be motivators and help everybody feel comfortable being here... literally to pass the torch on to these new guys and girls competing," she said.First time competitors can often face a diverse set of challenges when coming to the Games."It's anxiety -- you don't know what to expect. Everyone has been healed through the sports, but it's a different stage. You're competing with your [fellow service members], and it's a different feeling," Chis said.Cochrane is also excited to see the impact that having the event in a public venue is having on the athletes and spectators."It's very beneficial to spread the word in the public setting to see how the service needs programs like this to heal through adaptive sports," he said.

Beth Grauer - Marine Corps (Staff Sergeant)

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Brower will be competing in several events later this week. (Photo: Sylvia Gaenzle)[/caption]Competitions: Field Events (Shot put and Discus), SwimmingGrauer is one of the first-year Warrior Games athletes, and she's excited to compete with her fellow Marines."It's been great, it really has been... seeing all the athletes compete, but at the end of the day, we can just all come together and have camaraderie between the services," she said.Despite the natural excitement, there are also challenges for first time participants."Crowds and noise... it's a bit of a challenge at times," she said.For other first-time Warrior Games athletes, Grauer has already garnered some wisdom and advice from her experiences."Practice a lot, be here to compete, but have an open mind for what's going on. It's ever-changing like the military always is. So just keep an open mind, and go for broke."American Grit will be covering more Warrior Games events and athletes, so keep an eye out for more exclusive articles and interviews!

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