Warriors take adaptive sports to 'next level'
Boxing instructor and former Marine, Kelvin De La O works with wounded warrior Spc. May Agurto on her punch count and form during a recent training session at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. De La O and others hope that boxing can soon become an event in the next Paralympics.

BETHESDA, Md. (Sept. 24, 2012) -- Several wounded warriors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda competed in the London 2012 Summer Paralympics, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, 2012.

As part of their rehabilitation, the wounded warriors received their initial training in adaptive sports through programs offered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, or WRNMMC.

Paralympian standout Rob Jones, a retired Marine sergeant who competed on the "Bad Company" pararowing with his teammate Oksana Masters, earned a bronze medal in mixed double sculls, on Sept. 2.

"Rob was here two years ago," said Tiffany Smith, a recreational therapist with the Adaptive Sports Rehabilitation Program at WRNMMC.

"From day one when rowing was offered, Rob would be here to train, even if no one else was," Smith added. "It was no surprise he took it to the next level."

Although the sound of laughter is frequently heard in the Military Advanced Training Center at WRNMMC, it's a place of dedication to healing and hard work.

These are needed to excel in adaptive sports and achieve Paralympian status, Smith explained.

"A lot of these wounded warriors try our adaptive sports program [and] the ones who really get into it and commit to it, stand out," she added.

Other former WRNMMC adaptive sports athletes and wounded warriors who competed in the trials at the recent Paralympics included Jerrod Fields (in track and field), James Stuck (sitting volleyball), and Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Olsen, who competed in parashooting.

"In my stay at [WRNMMC], there was an outdoor event every day in therapy," Olsen said in an American Forces Press Service interview. "I went out and shot sporting clay one day. I hit my first 49 out of 50."

Olsen's recreational therapist put him in touch with an Army marksman unit at Fort Benning, Ga., and the Soldier had a successful tryout with the unit. This eventually led to his involvement with the Paralympics.

"I got along great with the coaches and other shooters on the team," said Olsen.

There are many sports available through WRNMMC's Adaptive Field and Stream and Adaptive Sports Rehabilitation Programs, according to Smith.

"We have tons of programs -- three to five are offered each day. We have both winter and summer sports," Smith said."The warriors who excel are here every day, on time and focused. Beyond their regular clinic time, they're doing extra hours outside of mandatory therapy time."

On a weekly basis, wounded warriors can incorporate adaptive sports as part of their rehabilitation treatment, Smith explained. If wounded warriors go to physical or occupational therapy in the morning, they take time out to participate in the adaptive activities to incorporate what they are learning inside the clinic, outside the clinic.

Smith said the most popular adaptive activity is scuba diving, an eight-week course which concludes with a visit to Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, or the Virgin Islands to earn open water certification.

"We always try to have a goal and there is a reward at the end," Smith said.

There are also programs available that offer activities ranging from yoga to boxing.

"A certified boxing coach comes in and works with the guys," Smith said. "A goal is to admit boxing as one of the new Paralympics sports."

Page last updated Mon September 24th, 2012 at 00:00