U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Team Army cyclists wasted little time on a hot track to get results in the cycling event at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games. Three Soldier-athletes, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, Sgt. 1st. Class Tiffany Rodriquez-Rexroad, and Sgt. 1st. Class Hyoshin Cha swept their category of hand cycling, taking gold, silver and bronze respectively.
Once again, the weather played havoc on cyclists with temperatures reaching near 90 degrees and lightning warnings causing delayed starts. Soldier-athletes paid careful attention to staying hydrated during the day. "I am Army strong," said Kendrick. "It's always in my heart to push through no matter what obstacles you're facing and that's what cycling has been."
"It was a challenge out there but I overcame it and came through," said Cha. "Just like these socks (red white and blue) say we are Army strong!"
Cycling at Warrior Games are conducted under rules and guidelines placing athletes in categories on an equal playing field. The cycling competition includes hand, recumbent, upright and tandem bicycles. Competition events are time trials and road races. Road race distances are 10 km, 20 km, and 30 km based on type of bicycle and athlete classification.
Athletes are assigned classification categories based on functional abilities, including impaired muscle power/range of movement, limb deficiency and visual impairment. Competition classifications are based on the type of bicycle used, as well as each athlete's ability. The lower the athlete's class number, the greater the functional limitations.
The time trial event is new to Warrior Games and begins with a standing start, and athletes compete against the clock to complete a set distance in the fastest time.
Although the rules seem somewhat complicated, riders find peace when they are on the road. "Cycling provides a freedom I can't explain," said Maj. Christina Truesdale. "It makes me the most alive."
Truesdale took the bronze medal in her cycling classification. "When I was at the Warrior Transition Unit (Fort Benning, Georgia) and really struggling, cycling became my passion," Truesdale explained. "It was one of the many opportunities the WTU provided."
Adaptive cycling is not easy. Going from a traditional upright bicycle that most have ridden at one point in time in their life, to a hand cycle can be daunting. "I've been working really hard and it paid off," said Kendrick. Truesdale elaborated further, "For me, when someone tells me I can't, I push through and prove them wrong."
Cycling is one of many ways wounded, ill or injured Soldiers and veterans find their calling to push through adversity. "I never dreamed cycling would open up this door," said Truesdale. "Now I'm headed to Invictus [Games]. I'm very grateful for this opportunity."
One theme throughout this year's Warrior Games is perseverance. Athletes have each other's back, regardless of their service or country they come from. "Everyone has a similar story as mine," said Truesdale. "We keep each other going."