By Robert A. Whetstone and Leanne Thomas
U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo - With the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games in full swing, athletes will be competing in a new sport; powerlifting. The event took place June 5, at the Cadet East Gymnasium, on the campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy. The sport will surely push these competitors to limits their muscles haven't felt before.

The DoD Warrior Games is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Teams representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, United Kingdom Armed Forces, Canadian Armed Forces, and the Australian Defence Force will compete beginning June 2 - 9 in archery, cycling, track, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and - new this year - powerlifting and indoor rowing.

Powerlifting is not only challenging, but it is an added bonus to a wounded, ill, or injured Soldier's recovery. "Being able to really focus on what the technique is, you see how excited they are and how happy they are, it's quite amazing," said Michael Wishnia, Team Army powerlifting coach.

There was a lot of preparation that went into getting Soldiers ready for a new sport. "We had a couple camps throughout the year and the (Army) trials, around February-March time frame," said Wishnia. Coaches developed a plan that would work with other sports that athletes were competing in.

"Both of them (coaches) gave me workouts and I would give them feedback and I would send them emails and pictures and videos of what I did that day, and how my form was," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Hyoshin Cha, medical logistics specialist stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Powerlifting at Warrior Games is not like what you see in an event like the Olympics. The bench press is the sport's single discipline and is open to male and female athletes. Athletes compete solely by body weight divisions regardless of functional ability. There are four weight categories per gender.

Some of the participants for Team Army have never been in a gym before, and powerlifting is a strange new world for them. "Originally I first started powerlifting at (Army) trials," said Cha. The coaches asked Cha if she ever tried powerlifting. She said, "No I never go to the gym." The gym is where she found a new passion.

It is very important for participants to follow the commands of the referee closely or their lift will not count. The commands are straight-forward and unmistakable; start, press, and rack.

When the chief referee says "start" it means the athlete will lift the bar and weight off of the rack (assisted or non-assisted) maintaining bar control. Any downward movement of the bar prior to the start command will result in a NO-Lift. When the participant is ready, he/she will bring the bar down and touch their chest.

While the bar is controlled and on their chest, they must wait for the chief referee to give the command "press." Any upward movement prior to the "press" command will result in a NO-Lift.

After the "press" command, the participant finishes the lift by extending their arms and locking their elbows (similar to the "start" position of a lift). The chief referee gives the final command of "rack." Re-racking prior to this command will result in a NO-Lift.

Cha is now more focused, and feels strength in her upper body. "I definitely feel stronger and I feel more confident," she said. For her, there is no longer the thought that she cannot accomplish her goals in powerlifting. "Now it's, 'I can lift, I can still do upper-body, and I can still make goals within myself to be able to lift heavier, or be stronger," she explained.

Cha's draw in her weight class allowed her to be the first woman in Warrior Games history to compete in the sport of powerlifting. Her reward for trying something new and putting in the work...a gold medal in her weight class.

For more information on powerlifting and the results of the event go to https://dodwarriorgames.com/games-results/2018-results/