By David VergunMay 12, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Army News Service, May 12, 2013) -- Extremely tough mental and physical training and experience give the Special Operations team's wounded warriors a competitive edge, said their cycling coach.
The athletes' background in Special Ops prepared them well for the 2013 Warrior Games, said Coach Jeth Fogg, prior to the upright- and hand-cycling races at the Air Force Academy here May 12. Special Ops won two gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal in the cycling races.
However, Fogg said even though the team has an advantage, a win is never guaranteed. "We're always the underdog because we're smaller than the other services and don't field as many folks."
The Special Ops team has athletes from the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, some active, some medically retired, some old and some young.
It makes sense to have a Special Ops team for the games, Fogg said, because Special Ops is a unique part of the military where members operate as a team, often in arduous conditions. They know each other very well and develop close-knit bonds.
Fogg himself is not a wounded warrior, nor was he ever in Special Operations, but he said during the course of his Air Force career he worked alongside Special Ops members numerous times and understands their mindset.
He is familiar with Special Ops wounded warriors because this is his third year at Warrior Games coaching them. The Warrior Games started in 2010, but Special Ops didn't field a team until 2011, the year after Fogg retired from the Air Force.
The Warrior Games are for wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans and teams represent each of the services and the United Kingdom, in addition to Special Ops.
LEVELS OF EXPERIENCE
There are basically two levels of competition here, he said, "complete and compete."
The first goal for the athletes, he said, is just completing the course -- going the distance. That's the initial standard.
After that, they need to show a real desire to go further "and actually make it to the podium," he said.
Here, just completing the course is a "huge deal" and the competitive aspect is at the high end, he added.
He provided an example of an athlete last year who could barely move about but made substantial progress and made the team; another lost 48 pounds in a year to compete.
Then there is the ultimate goal for some, he said: leaving the team.
"Some guys eventually get in such good shape that they pass the Veterans Affairs disability standard and can no longer compete," he explained. Once that happens, they can join the Paralympic team and try out for the 2016 Olympics.
The team has lost a number of athletes because they have become that good, he said.
For some, however, they enjoy the Warrior Games so much, they return year after year, he added. "For them, they've made that higher level already."