EL PASO, Texas (May 6, 2015) -- As the sun beats down, a Soldier placed her right foot in the block and got ready for the burst of energy she would need to sprint her way to a medal win during the Army Trials for the DoD Warrior Games.
Sgt. 1st Class Sam Goldenstein, a radiology technician with the 325th Combat Support Hospital in Independence, Missouri, took a gold medal in the women's 400-meter and a silver medal in the women's 1500-meter, 200-meter and 100-meter. She also took a silver medal in women's upright cycling during trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, March 29 to April 2. For her, adaptive sports give her a chance to transition from being a distance runner to a sprinter and to being a cyclist.
"I used to be a distance runner," she said. "I used to love to do half marathons. The Army Ten-Miler was one of my favorite races. The doctors told me to quit running. I always identified as being a runner. I would always go running. I miss it, but the Warrior Transition Unit, or WTU, pointed me to cycling, and now I absolutely love it now, and I honestly wouldn't have tried it. Cycling is great exercise and keeps my pain down."
Over her 12 years in the Reserve, Goldenstein has developed a hip impingement and has grade-four arthritis. She requires hip replacements. She said it can be challenging, but she is more focused on being competitive.
"I'm a 33-year-old female," she said. "I thought my competition days were over, but when I found out about Warrior Games and the Army Trials, I was like, 'Wow, I can actually be competitive again.' When I ran, I never ran for personal records. I never thought I could be competitive again after I lost the running and especially after picking up a new sport at my age. Now I've actually hired a coach. I'm going into my first racing season this year and will see how that goes. It's shown me that I can still do this, no matter what my disability is. It's never over."
Goldenstein is also the adaptive sports site coordinator at Fort Leonard Wood and encourages other wounded warriors to participate in adaptive sports and to try out for future Army Trials and the Veteran Affairs' Valor Games. She uses one of her own teammates at the Army Trials as an example.
Staff Sgt. Cory Davis, an avionics mechanic who served for 21 years, after six weeks of training with Goldenstein, went to the Valor Games in October with a team from Fort Leonard Wood and medaled in shooting. He also did well in archery, though he had never shot a bow before.
"It gave him the confidence and excitement to come back and continue that sport," she said. "He won a gold medal here at the Army Trials in shooting."
Davis said Goldenstein helped him in his recovery.
"Sam's great," he said. "When I first got to the WTU, the adaptive sports program was pretty much non-existent. When my wife came to visit, she lit into the staff because most of my days, I spent in my room doing nothing. I was getting pretty depressed. Next thing I know, Sam comes in and says, 'Cory, what do you want to do?' She suggested archery and shooting. She just motivated me and right off the bat, we had Valor Games. She's been great. She's really inspired me to do more. She listens to us and gets us involved. She tries hard to make it as much fun as she can. Every time I see her, I smile."
Goldenstein said she was inspired to join the Army because it was a family tradition.
"My dad was in the Army, and my sister was in the Reserves, and at 21, I thought, 'The Army could be very beneficial for me, and I could help serve my country.' With everything stirring up in Iraq at the time, I really wanted to go do something for these guys. I may not be on the front line, but I can help them in the hospital," she said.
Goldenstein will continue her service and her competitive nature as she trains for competition for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 19-28. Last year, she took a silver medal in women's upright cycling, a silver medal in the women's 1500-meter and 400-meter and a bronze medal in the 200-meter at the Warrior Games.
Throughout the games, wounded, ill and injured Service members and veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard will compete in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
Goldenstein said the most important aspect of the 2015 DoD Warrior Games is the camaraderie.
"We forge friendships, and we use each other to help us with our disabilities and because of camaraderie, it helps us heal," she said. "I wish we could take more than just 40 people on the team. But even at the Army Trials here, with those who don't make the team, they still have a piece of that camaraderie and friendship here. It's crucial in their healing process."