2012 London Paralympics Athlete Sgt. 1st Class Olson Sets Sights on Invictus Games

By D.P. TaylorApril 20, 2022

Retired Sergeant 1st Class Josh Olson throwing a discus
Retired Sergeant 1st Class Josh Olson throwing a discus during a practice session on Fort Belvoir, Virginia, April 11, 2022. Team U.S. is a part of more than 500 participants from 20 countries who will take part in The Invictus Games The Hague 2020 featuring ten adaptive sports, including archery field, indoor rowing powerlifting, swimming, track, sitting, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and a driving challenge. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Andrew Garcia). (Photo Credit: Cpl. Andrew Garcia) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — For Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, Invictus Games is a dream come true six years in the making. And he competed in the 2012 London Paralympics.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Olson said while training with his fellow Team US athletes in Fort Belvoir prior to heading to the Netherlands to compete in the Invictus Games. “My goal in 2016 was to come to Invictus. To finally get to do it, it’s been great.”

Since his injury in 2003, Olson — who is from Washington state — has competed in rowing, powerlifting, archery and shooting, and was the first active-duty service member to compete in the Paralympic games when he did so in London in 2012.

Being together with all of these athletes from the Army — as well as the other service branches — and meeting many of them for the first time has been a great experience for Olson.

“It feels great to finally meet everyone, and the atmosphere is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s a neat experience. We’ve all been through hardships. We’ve all had to overcome something. It’s a good opportunity to learn. My injury is different from anyone else’s, but when it comes down to it, everyone has to overcome.”

The pandemic didn’t make things easy on anyone. This Invictus Games was originally supposed to be held in 2020, but COVID-19 forced its delay until this year. And it was certainly a challenge for the athletes to stay focused and in shape, but they made it work, Olson said.

“Thankfully, I was able to reach out to Army coaches and other athletes, and that really helps to stay motivated,” he said. “It’s been tough, but it’s been great.”

What he’s learned in the nearly two decades since his injury is that if you’re willing to put the work in, you can overcome just about anything.

“If you set your mind to something, you should be able to get through it,” he said. “The big thing is to ask for help. There’s people out there that want to help you.”