By Jacqueline M. Hames, Defense Media ActivityMay 13, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 13, 2011) -- The second annual Warrior Games, a joint endeavor between the U.S. Olympic committee and the U.S. Department of Defense, is gearing up for competition with practice sessions this week, to include wheelchair basketball.
Army athletes from around the country gathered in Colorado Springs, Colo., on May 9, 2011, to start practicing sports like archery, swimming, wheelchair basketball, cycling, shooting, track and field, and volleyball. Practices will continue through Friday, in preparation for the Warrior Games, May 16-22, 2011.
The Army's wheelchair basketball team is practicing at Fort Carson, Colo., this week.
When Juan P. Soto, retired, found out he was eligible to compete for the Warrior Games, he signed up to try out and was made captain of the team.
"I was selected as team captain by a player vote. I try and focus on leading by example on and off the court," Soto said. He is a first-year team member, and attends the University of Arlington in Arlington, Texas, where he started on the wheelchair basketball team last year.
Soto said participating in the Warrior Games affects his teammates a lot.
"They will definitely get hooked and want to go beyond the Warrior Games, either in local teams or at the college level," Soto said.
Linga Kiss-Johnson, also retired, jumped at the chance to play wheelchair basketball when her physical therapist told her it would increase the strength in her neck and back and suggested she try out for the Warrior Games.
"I absolutely love it. I played basketball when I was younger and now I play wheelchair basketball with the Augusta Bulldogs in Georgia," Kiss-Johnson said. She was assigned to the 173rd Airborne stationed in Bamberg, Germany, before she retired in December 2010.
The Army team usually starts practice with a group huddle to hear the coach's plan for the session, emphasizing the power of positive thinking, hard work, and how they work together as a team. When practice is over, the team stretches out the kinks with the help of physical therapists and other support staff.
Capt. Rebecca Moore, physical therapist, assigned to the Troop Medical Clinic at Fort Benning, Ga., is excited about working with the team.
"It's awesome. The energy of these guys coming off injuries and coming together as a team, working together to enhance their performance as a team and individually is amazing," Moore said. "It's something they can take off the court and use for life skills."
Wheelchair basketball finals will be held at the Olympic Training Center, Sports Center I on May 20, 6:30 p.m. (MT). For the full tournament schedule, please see the Warrior Games Competition Schedule at http://usparalympics.org.