By Leanne ThomasJune 6, 2018
Warrior Games: Bortle makes a comeback
By Leanne Thomas, Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - After three years, U.S. Army Ret. Capt. Steven Bortle, from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, has made his way back to the Department of Defense Warrior Games and Team Army is so glad he did.
A decorated combat veteran and avid athlete, Bortle represented Team Army for the first time at the 2015 games, dominating the track, swimming, and cycling events, taking home four gold medals, five silver medals, and one bronze medal.
"I was looking at trying to do the Warrior Games in 2016, but I got really sick, so I couldn't make the regionals or trials to make the Army team in 2016," said Bortle.
Bortle's interest in adaptive sports started at the Tripler Army Medical Center's Warrior Transition Battalion in 2015 as he recovered from serious shoulder injuries sustained during a deployment to Afghanistan. He later discovered that he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
Bortle said, "Then I was feeling out for the count. But I found that my WTB had an adaptive sports program, and I used sports in my recovery."
Known as an elite athlete among his teammates, Bortle explains his 'winning" strategy,' "I really just have the drive in the back of my head for adaptive sports."
Leading up to the 2018 Warrior Games, Bortle said, "The Army came out and did regionals in Hawaii, and I showed up and had an awesome 100, 200-meter times for the sprint. Then for the (Army) trials, I did a lot of gym work, and I really peaked this year at Fort Bliss," he said.
As an experienced competitor, Bortle's goal going into the Army Trials was not only to represent Team Army during the Warrior Games but also to represent Team US for the Invictus Games.
"In 2015, I learned at the (Warrior) games about Invictus, so going into (the 2018 Army) Trials, that was my focus, I was shooting for Invictus."
Working with Army adaptive sports coaches to alter his training routine, Bortle became more competitive and got picked to represent Team US. at the 2018 Invictus Games this September in Sydney, Australia.
Despite ongoing illness and injuries, Bortle goes to show that the Warrior Games serve as a powerful recovery tool for our nation's wounded warriors, as they have learned to overcome challenges and conquer their goals.
Even more, for Bortle and many other wounded warrior athletes, they are called to give back.
"I'm also now a special education teacher, and I'm looking from more of a perspective for the high school level because after I leave this arena, I want to be an adaptive sports teacher and coach," explained Bortle.
"Making a difference means a lot to me," he said.