VA Adaptive Sports Magazine


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VA Adaptive Sports Magazine

  1. 1. Air Force Veteran Eyes Paralympic Medal Podium AfterAction SportsVA’S Adaptive Sports Magazine Spring 2013 Wisdom From Wheelchair Rugby’s “Coach Gumbie” Target Practice for Blind Veterans Premiere Issue
  2. 2. Gallery va .gov/adaptivesportsspring 2013 Fast Mover: For more than 25 years, hundreds of Veterans of all eras have turned out for the annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, hosted on and near the champagne-powdery slopes of Snowmass, Colo. The rewards: rehabilitation, perspiration and good, old-fashioned inspiration. Just ask Glenn McClary (Marines Ret.), photographed here, just plain stoked.
  3. 3. spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 1 Gallery
  4. 4. 2 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports Gallery Field day: John Dunbar (Marines Ret.) of Eugene, Ore., in the moment at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego, Calif.
  5. 5. spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 3 Gallery On target: Babette Peyton (Army Ret.) lines up a shot at the archery event at the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. (Photo by Ken Holt) Twist and shout: Richard Narushoff (Air Force Ret.) throws a discus in one of 14 events at the Golden Age Games.
  6. 6. 4 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports Mission ReDefined This will be another great year. From the skiers and snowboarders in Snowmass Village to the artists and performers in Boston, I’ve heard it again and again at each of our national events. Every Veteran has a story about challenges overcome, goals met and lives changed. And while each circumstance is unique, the theme of every story is the same: “Life is different now, but through adaptive sports, it’s focused again.” When a Veteran’s mission in the military ends, especially because of an injury, many are left wondering, now what? The objective, or at least the path to it, is dramatically altered. That’s where the idea of “Mission ReDefined” was born. It’s the idea that, as former Servicemen and Servicewomen, you have the tools to successfully map your road to recovery by adapting your goals. And as the motto for VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events, we use the Mission ReDefined brand to highlight resources designed for you. VA National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events Office 810 Vermont Avenue, NW Suite 915B Washington, DC 20420 @vaadaptivesport You can start with this magazine. I hope you find inspiration in Sean Halsted’s Mission ReDefined and the other coverage of Veterans who have sustained life- changing injuries, but who are not sidelined. You can also visit our website,, where you can find information on any of our seven national events. Check out our Sports Club Finder to locate adaptive sports programs in your community. Or learn about our Olympic Opportunity Fund, which provides funds to community organizations that offer adaptive sports programs and support Veteran athletes training in Paralympic programs. Mission ReDefined means tools to help you get your life, or mission, back on track. So here’s the bottom line: no excuses. Take what you’ve learned in the service and throughout life, and put it into place today. You’ve got challenges. Confront them. You’ve got goals. Meet them. Make the decision to achieve your personal best and redefine your mission. Thanks for pushing yourself all year to live your own Mission ReDefined. Susan Pejoro Acting Director, National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events Bona fides Contributors Matt Bristol Russell Carlson Jonathan Gomez Joel Harris Alison Jarris Adam Kleiner Amy Kress Peter Lewis Nune Vartanyan
  7. 7. spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 5 Contents To Russia With Lungs Air Force Veteran Sean Halsted trains for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Excuses, Excuses U.S. National Wheelchair Rugby Team coach tackles Veterans’ most common excuses for not trying adaptive sports Special Events Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events programming on tap for 2013 13 16 19 FEATURES Gallery BONA FIDES 1 4 Anatomy of a sit ski End Item 24 6 6 7 8 9 ACTIVATION Veteran Paralympians Great Moments in Adaptive Sports Veteran Athletes on the Big Screen Funding for Adaptive Sports Programs Rifles for Therapy Skin care How to prevent pressure ulcers Positioning How do I know I’m seated right for my sport? nutrition A plan for everyday performance Exercise A breakdown of calories burned by 30 minutes of your favorite activity 10 10 11 11 optimum performance 13 16 19 After Action Sports welcomes article and photo submissions. Veterans, family members and organizations that support Veterans are welcome to submit stories to Submitting content does not guarantee it will be published in After Action Sports, but we do review and appreciate all submissions. Please be sure to include your full contact information on all submissions, so we may contact you if we decide to use your material. Upon submission, all submitted work—including but not limited to photos, articles and video—becomes the property of After Action Sports and will not be returned. Due to the volume of submissions we receive, we cannot reply to every submission.
  8. 8. 6 spring 2013 va .gov /adaptivesports Activation 1904 George Eyser wins six medals for Team USA while competing (gymnastics) with a wooden leg in the St. Louis Olympic Games. 1942 Germany’s Franz Wendel creates the first adaptive ski by attaching a pair of crutches to short skis after his leg was amputated. Great Moments in Adaptive Sports London’s Pride Twenty U.S. military Veterans and active duty Service members participated in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Eight brought home a total of 13 medals for Team USA. “In the military there is a strong feeling of family,” says Kari Miller, 35 (Army 1995-1999), from Washington, D.C. “Competing in the Paralympics, I felt that camaraderie come back. It’s a way to be part of a family again.” Miller, who lost her legs at age 22 to a drunk driver, led the U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team to Paralympic silver. “It’s a team sport and you’re playing together, fighting a little battle together, and you have a bond,” Miller says. Active-duty Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, 28, won gold in the 100-meter and 2012 olympics 400-meter freestyle events, and silver in the 50-meter freestyle race. The 2006 Naval Academy graduate, blinded in 2011 in Afghanistan by an IED blast, was also selected by his teammates to serve as flag bearer in the closing ceremony. Oz Sanchez, 36 (Marines 1995- 2001), brought home bronze in the individual C1-3 cycling road race. He and teammates also won gold in the mixed H1-4 cycling relay. Sanchez served two deployments in the Middle East before he was paralyzed, waist- down, in a motorcycle crash. Former West Point cadet Jennifer Schuble, 36, brought home a silver medal in the 500-meter time trial and a bronze medal in the team sprints. Medal count: Team USA, including Oz Sanchez (cycling) and Kari Miller (sitting volleyball), won 13 medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Rob Jones, 27 (Marines 2008-2010), won bronze in the mixed double sculls rowing event. Angela Madsen, 52 (Marines 1979-1981), and Army Veteran Scot Severn, 44, each took home bronze medals in shot put. Madsen received the “Women Who Inspire Us” award by the Amateur Athletic Foundation. Will Groulx, 38 (Navy 1995-2001), captained the U.S. Men’s Wheelchair Rugby team, which brought home the bronze medal. Team USA also included: active-duty Army Sgt. First Class Josh Olson, 33 (archery), and Marine Corporal Rene Renteria, 23 (soccer); Air Force Veteran Mario Rodriguez, 53 (wheelchair fencing); Army Veterans Dugie Denton, 42 (archery), Russell Wolfe, 43 (archery), Eric Hollen, 47 (shooting), Gavin Sibayan, 31 (soccer), CeCe Mazyck, 36 (track and field) and Scott Winkler, 39 (track and field); Army National Guard Veteran Jerry Shields, 57 (archery); and Navy Veterans Steven Peace, 38 (cycling), and Christopher Clemens, 38 (track and field). $550 Veterans with the drive and skills to compete in the Paralympics and other international adaptive sports events may qualify for a training allowance. The funds can cover training, coaching and support. More on how to qualify and apply at: Training Allowance Photocourtesy:U.S.Paralympics Photocourtesy:U.S.Paralympics
  9. 9. spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 7 Activation July 1948 First competition for wheelchair athletes held on opening day of the XIV Olympics in London, showcasing organized sports’ importance for rehabilitation. August 1960 The first Paralympic Games are held in Rome, Italy, and ever since have been held in the same years as the Olympic Games. Movie Night Wounded Veterans Star in Must-See Documentaries What it’s about Released on the 10-year anniversary of September 11, 2001, the film features detailed interviews of Veterans who were injured while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans, Soldiers and care providers come together to encourage individual and community resilience. Why see it Men and women, young and old give an account of 9/11, sharing stories of sacrifice and healing. February 1976 Sweden hosts first Paralympic Winter Games. August 1981 First National Veterans Wheelchair Games are held at the VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va. Participants include 74 Veterans from 14 states. Memorable Quote “You don’t have to be running a marathon; you don’t have to be climbing a mountain. It’s about where you are right now and making the most and the best you can.” —Col. Gregory Gadson Director of the U.S. Army Ft. Belvoir Garrison, who lost both legs in Iraq Wounded Warrior’s Resilience (2011) High Ground (2012) Warrior Champions: From Baghdad to Beijing (2009) What it’s about Led by the first blind man to reach the summit of Mount Everest, 11 disabled Veterans set off on an expedition to climb a 20,000-foot Himalayan peak. Why see it The People’s Choice Award-winning film offers proof that amputated legs, blindness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are hurdles, not roadblocks. Memorable quote “You don’t unbuild a soldier. You can hope and pray that he can mind his P’s and Q’s, the way he acts most of the time. But all in all you’re training a guy to fight.” What it’s about After losing limbs and suffering from paralysis in Operation Iraqi Freedom, four Veterans set their sights on the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. Warrior athletes Kortney Clemons (Army), Carlos Leon (Marines), Melissa Stockwell (Army) and Scott Winkler (Army) defy doctors’ expectations and fight for their country in a new way. Why see it Showcase of unbelievable mental and physical resilience and endurance. Memorable quote “I’ve done more in life with one leg than I ever would have done with two.” —Melissa Stockwell, U.S. Army –Cody Miranda (Marines Ret.), PTSD and traumatic brain injury after 18 years of service
  10. 10. 8 spring 2013 va .gov /adaptivesports Activation August 1985 Albany, Ga., hosts first National Veterans Golden Age Games— now the largest sports competition for Veterans age 55 and older. July 1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees access to public sports and recreation programs. July 1984 New Zealand’s Neroli Fairhall becomes the first athlete (archery) to compete in both the Paralympics (1980) and the Olympic Games (1984). BY the numbers NewYork NorthportBaltimore Washington,DC Montrose Syracuse Providence Boston Tomah Chicago(2) Denver Pheonix PaloAlto LongBeach Montgomery Grand Junction Milwaukee 18 52 Locations using VA funding Weeks per year VA funding is available —Michael Welch Program Specialist VA OFFice of national veterans sports programs & special events @vaadaptivesport Keep up with Programming news on twitter We are committed to giving Veterans every opportunity to engage in sports and recreation 52 weeks a year, because we believe that regular participation in these activities improves Veterans’ physical and mental well-being.” “ March 2013January 2012 $300,000 Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events funding since January 2012 for new adaptive sports programming at VA medical facilities Funding Activity
  11. 11. spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 9 Activation May 2010 First Warrior Games. Offers introduction to competitive Paralympic sports for injured Servicemembers and Veterans. August 2000 Marla Runyan, legally blind, finishes 8th in the 1,500-meter race at the Sydney Summer Olympics. It is a record finish for American women in the event. May 2001 Erik Weihenmayer becomes the first legally blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. September 2012 2012 Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, takes home London Paralympic gold one year after becoming blinded by an explosion in Afghanistan. Champion athletes say success is not found in the competition—it’s found in the preparation. “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail,” Olympic great Mark Spitz once said. By placing state-of-the-art training equipment in the communities of Veteran athletes, the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is committed to providing top-notch training opportunities for Veterans who want to reach their personal best. The office has purchased the first competitive rifle systems for visually impaired Veterans to use at VA facilities in Boston, Long Beach, Calif., and Palo Alto, Calif. The Eko-Aims E-BSS shooting system is the same system used by the International Paralympic Committee in biathlon competitions worldwide. The rifle emits a series of beeps that increase in frequency and pitch as the shooter closes in on targets. The new shooting systems will be used at VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Centers to restore confidence, enhance concentration and develop new skills for Veterans who are living with vision loss. “The feedback from Veterans who have used this device is very positive,” says Rachel Smith, recreational therapist at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Veterans have found a way to accept and overcome visual deficits and focus on re- engaging in a recreational activity they once enjoyed.” Target Practice Vets Shoot At What They Can’t See
  12. 12. va .gov /adaptivesports10 spring 2013 OPtimum performance Skin protection Keeping your skin healthy should be a top priority. (See: “A Sore Thing”) A wound from pressure or a scrape from a bad transfer could keep you out of the game or even land you back in the hospital. Stability The one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work for sports. You should be positioned so you feel stable and supported, but not restricted. That will vary depending on your sport and your physical abilities. There are specialized cushions and seating supports to help with positioning. Joint preservation When use of one body part is compromised, your other joints and muscles work overtime. To save what you have, use the right equipment, customize it for your needs and always use good techniques—not only for your sport, but also for transferring in and out of equipment, carrying bags and pushing your wheelchair or using crutches. The sores are caused by shoes being too tight, deflated seat cushions and other issues of medical equipment misfit. And they will quickly put you off your game, says Susan Pejoro, a 19-year spinal cord injury nurse practitioner, now deputy director for the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events. Pejoro says the most important thing to know about pressure ulcers is to try not getting one in the first place. Her tips for doing so follow. “I know the military mentality is just keep going, power through the pain,” she says. “But preventing pressure ulcers in the first place is just a huge, huge, huge big deal.” Skin Care A Sore Thing Positioning How Do I Know I’m Seated Right? Regardless of your sport, there are three key concepts that every seated athlete must consider, says Kendra Betz, MSPT, ATP, the prosthetic clinical coordinator with VA’s Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service. Look to your clinical providers and coaches to help determine what you need. Seek help Pressure ulcers can lead to soft tissue infections, bone infections, the need for long-term antibiotics and even amputation. When your skin isn’t healing or you’re otherwise in doubt, get a medical evaluation. Underlying medical conditions may be part of the problem. 5 Relieve pressure The most common cause of pressure ulcers is forgetting to relieve pressure every 20 minutes in areas where sensation may be less than normal. “Do pressure reliefs for 30 seconds and be sure your adaptive medical equipment is in good, working condition,” Pejoro says. Check twice Check your skin twice daily for any skin changes like red spots or warmth over boney areas, open wounds, or even unexpected drainage on your clothes. Use a long-handled mirror or get someone to look for you. 1 2 Eat right Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated. (See “Food for Your Battle”) And quit tobacco use. “Tobacco decreases blood circulation and puts you more at risk,” Pejoro says. Clean up Empty your bowel and bladder regularly. The acid in stool and urine can cause chemical burns to the skin. “Accidents can stink in more ways than the obvious,” Pejoro says.. 3 4 Proper seating: One size does not fit all. Anyone who uses a prosthetic or wheelchair is subject to pressure ulcers—those burning, open skin sores that develop over boney areas like ankles, sitting bones or hips. “Don’t forget the basics,” Betz says. “If you don’t pay attention to these three concepts, you may end up with a real problem.”
  13. 13. optimum performance Food for Your Battle What’s missing in those images? The food that made them go. Good nutrition is vital for energy and strength, says Victoria Della Rocca, a registered dietitian at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Here she offers a recipe for fueling your next win. “A daily commitment to good nutrition leads to increased energy, stamina and performance,” Della Rocca says. Balance your plate You know the diet building blocks: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each nutrient plays a vital role. Carbohydrates like whole grains fuel muscles, increase stamina, decrease fatigue and feed your brain. High-quality protein builds and repairs muscle. Fat also helps fuel muscle and helps your body use key vitamins. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, athletes should balance their calories with 55 to 65 percent carbohydrates, 10 to 15 percent protein and 25 to 30 percent fat. “I recommend following MyPlate [],” Della Rocca says. “Half your plate from vegetables, a quarter from starch and a quarter from meat.” Nutrition 125lb 155lb 185lb Weight Lifting Your Weight Stretching, Hatha Yoga Stationary BIKE (moderate) Stationary Rowing (Moderate) Jogging (12-min mile) Elliptical Training Swimming (breaststroke) 300 372 444 270 335 400 240 298 355 210 260 311 210 260 311 120 149 178 149 112 133 Eat small meals, often Eating five to six small meals in a day keeps you feeling full, keeps your blood sugar stable and helps you keep a constant source of energy. Go for at least two of the three diet building blocks in each meal—covering all three over the course of the day. Skipping meals drains your energy stores. Skipping breakfast is an especially bad idea, Della Rocca says. Researchers found a group that consumed a 400 calorie breakfast three hours before they exercised could go 136 minutes prior to exhaustion. In the same study, the group that did not consume breakfast stalled out after 109 minutes. Drink water Aim to drink a half-ounce to an ounce of water per pound of body weight. “The average guy who goes and works out at the gym doesn’t need a sports drink,” Della Rocca says. “Our bodies are designed to be hydrated by water. It’s the best detoxifier.” + Refuel and Restore After a workout, your muscle fibers are drained of stored energy and your veins are enlarged. Jumpstart muscle restoration by drinking water immediately after your workout. Then within 15 to 30 minutes, eat a snack packed with protein and carbohydrates. Muscle growth is stimulated by muscle damage, Della Rocca says. Timing of refueling is critical. “If you are training for something, you need to have very consistent routines,” she says. “If you’re not refueling, you’ll be working on a deficit.” EXERCISE 30Minutes to Burn A breakdown of calories burned by 30 minutes of your favorite activity. For more activities, see: spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 11 Sports magazines love to feature the intensity of competition: photos of steely eyes, clenched jaws, outstretched arms and legs.
  14. 14. 12 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
  15. 15. spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 13 BY JONATHAN GOMEZ Meet Sean Halsted: Air Force Veteran and U.S. Paralympic Team Member TO RUSSIA WITH LUNGS There’s a home video on YouTube that shows just how much one can accomplish after free-falling from a helicopter into paralysis. Sean Halsted, 42, stars in the video. He’s an Air Force Veteran who retired in 1998 because of his fall. Halsted’s wife, Sarah, made the video to document her husband’s rise from the wetland floor of Hurlburt Field in Florida to the snowy peaks of Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. Three years ago at Whistler, Halsted competed in three events at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. He didn’t medal, but he’s training for a second chance. As of this writing, Halsted is on track to qualify for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Halsted credits his experience at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic for igniting his Paralympic dream. “My jaw dropped,” he says of his experience at the 2001 clinic. “I sat there, watching people push themselves like I used to and wondered, ‘How much time did I waste?’”
  16. 16. 14 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports cover story Dec 11–18 Vuokatti, Finland Jan 25–28 Ukraine Feb 21–Mar 3 Solleftea, Sweden March 14–21 Sochi, Russia Jan 2–10 Soldier Hollow Utah U.S. Nationals Jan 19–23 Poland Halsted’s sport Halsted’s sport is cross-country (Nordic) skiing. It’s the one most often featuring participants who pull (with poles), skate (when they are able) and cruise on long, slender skis along courses ranging from one to 20 kilometers long. Halsted is paralyzed from the waist down, so he competes in a kneeling position on a specialized sit ski, which takes any measure of skating out of the mix. “It’s fun being out there in the woods and on the slopes, pushing yourself to the limit all while being in a serene environment,” says Halsted, who tried sled hockey and wheelchair basketball before going all-in on cross-country skiing. Pushing himself is not new for the Pacific Northwesterner. Halsted ran cross country through high school. In college at Washington State University, he rowed crew. His dad was in the Air Force, which led him to join. The accident, in 1998, happened during a search-and-rescue training exercise. The combat controller fell 40 feet to the ground and shattered his L1 vertebrae. “My entire life was active, on the move, and suddenly it was gone,” he says. Through early rehab, Halsted says he began thinking his life would be spent on the couch surfing the Internet and playing Nintendo—which would have been completely foreign to him just a few months before. “As a combat controller, you have these expectations,” he says. “You can’t accept sitting in your room.” Training regimen Of course, to remain competitive on the World Cup circuit Halsted does have needs—specifically in terms of intense and continuous training. He trains six days a week. Three of those days include double sessions. He trains near his home in Rathdrum, Idaho, and on the road, regardless of how tired he is from traveling. “Something is better than nothing,” Halsted says. “In the past, if I was worn out from traveling, I’d take the day off. This year, I’m making sure I do something. It’s still a challenge. I mean, I can’t just go out for a run. My shoes are a $5,000 wheelchair.” Halsted’s ’12–’13 Tour Schedule In his words: Watch an interview with Halsted at: Winter Sports Clinic Halsted struggled for two years before reluctantly attending the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and finding inspiration. Established in 1986, the Winter Sports Clinic shows disabled Active Duty Soldiers and Veterans that an active life is still attainable. “I saw them [fellow Veterans] with kids, with families,” he says. “I saw them living. All these things I thought that were taken from me, these people were enjoying.” Since the clinic, Halsted has pulled his way to a spot as one of four members of the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Ski Team. The sport has led him around the world, including the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, where he finished among the top 10 in the 1 kilometer sprint, and 10 km and 15 km competitions. Halsted and his wife also have started a family: twins Ethan and Rileigh, 8, and Keelie, 3. Days once spent sulking are now spent balancing time as an athlete and a father. “It’s a double-edge sword,” Halsted explains. “I want to set an example for them as an athlete and a hard-worker, but I also just want to be there as a father. There are days I’m trying to go work out, but Sarah and I have to coordinate getting one kid to soccer and another to gymnastics. And what if one of them gets sick? The last thing I’m worrying about is my own needs.” Try your hand: Halsted was inspired to try cross-country skiing after watching fellow Veterans in action “I want to set an example for them.” —Sean Halsted
  17. 17. spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 15 cover story otherwise would be impassable. Today, more than 4.5 million people participate in cross-country skiing, pushing their bodies to their personal limits. Halsted believes the intensity and self-mastery that his sport demands may also appeal to his fellow Veterans. While he is determined to reach the medal podium at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi (pronounced: so-chee), Russia, Halsted also thinks about other men and women who become disabled in their military service and ask the questions he once did. “Gold isn’t the be-all-end-all goal,” he says. “I mean, yeah, I want to win. But if I get someone off the couch and wanting to do something, that’ll mean just as much to me. If I can be that example that people can touch, people can see, people can grasp, that’ll make the whole Paralympic Movement grow.” In other words, Halsted hopes to change fellow disabled Veterans the way the Winter Sports Clinic changed him. “I’ve heard disabled people say, ‘I’m not going to do sports because I don’t need a charity medal,” Halsted says. “You try it and tell me if it’s still charity.” To maintain and build upper-body endurance during the off-season, Halsted rows and handcycles. Yet, he’s relatively relaxed about his diet. “To be honest, I just eat what we feed our kids,” he says. “My body’s damaged, I know that. I can’t eat as much as able-bodied athletes. I’ll have three normal meals with a couple snacks in between. I’m not religious about my diet.” With World Cup circuit stops in Poland, Ukraine, Sweden and Russia, the flexible attitude serves him well. “You get what you get,” he says about training facilities and food on the road. “If there are weights, I’ll use them. If there’s nothing, I’ll stick with plyometrics. As for food, if I’m in Germany, I’ll eat like Germans. If I’m in Russia, I’ll eat like Russians. If that means eating fish for the tenth time in a row in Norway, so be it. If the food doesn’t agree with me, oh well.” Nordic sport Whether or not the Nordic region’s diet staples agree with Halsted, the region’s sport certainly does. Cross- country skiing was born in the mountains of Finland, Norway and Sweden as a means of transportation over snowy and icy terrain. Hunters and soldiers took to Nordic skiing before civilians found joy in skiing across open fields and mountainous terrain that Team Halsted (L to R): Ethan, Sean, Rileigh, Keelie and Sarah Sochi, Russia: Host of the next Paralympic Winter Games Home Video: Sarah’s Tribute at: Ru6CVb
  18. 18. 16 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports Excuses, ExcusesWheelchair rugby’s “Coach Gumbie” says get in the game and you’ll get some of your old life back Few people could make a strong case for rolling a wheelchair in the path of another one coming full steam to your end of the court. Odds are James Gumbert could do it. “Coach Gumbie” is the beloved coach of the U.S. Paralympics National Wheelchair Rugby Team—a sport originally named “murderball” for its full-contact intensity. Gumbert has heard every reason in the book why not to get out there and try adaptive sports. Here he takes on the most common ones. “When I got injured, the thing that was scary to me was my idea of what being in a wheelchair was,” Gumbert says. “But you have a choice. You can sit at home and think about that pain that you’re in, or you can go out and get rid of it.” COACH Q&A
  19. 19. spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 17 I can’t do sports because I’m disabled. JG: It’s normal to be skeptical when someone says, “Here’s something you can do that will change your life.” It’s important to acknowledge that life is not going to be the same, but you can still find happiness. Once we get people to come in and play a sport, maybe something they used to play, whether it’s in a wheelchair or walking, it gives them hope and says to them, “Here’s a little bit of your old life back.” When they can see their freedom again, they can taste it, and they can feel it. So before you say no, come watch. Just come see how we can give you a little bit back of who you were. I have pain and don’t want to do it. JG: There are two types of pain in my world. The first is emotional pain, when it’s mentally hard to get motivated to do anything. For a lot of people in wheelchairs, they’ve had the people in their life telling you, “You can’t do this.” Or, “You’re not going to do much.” In our sport, you get the chance to tell people, “Hey, guess what, you’re wrong!” Go out and live life on your own terms, not how other people say you should live. The second type of pain is physical pain. If you come into practice going, “Man, my shoulder is always hurting,” the best thing you can do is talk to a group of guys in wheelchairs. Inevitably someone will say, “Oh yeah I’ve had that. This is what you do for it.” We’re our own support group. I need someone to help me do it. JG: We all fight hard for the right to do things on our own, for our independence, or to be able to represent our country. When you’re injured, all of a sudden that ability is taken away from you. It is important to reach out and say something, even if it’s as simple as, “I just need somebody to listen to me.” Or, “I need help up the stairs.” On our team we’re really good at calling someone out if they think they can’t do something. We will say, “Wait a minute. The fact that you are here at practice means you got up this morning and got dressed for practice. You found yourself transportation in order to get here.” The key is having the ability to let go of your pride and ask for that help. So many of us don’t want to ask for help. Travel is a hassle (accessibility). JG: It is. [Laughs] We’ll go to some countries and all you see is stairs and sand. But let me tell you, there’s never been something that I’ve set my mind on to do that I haven’t been able to get done. Even in a foreign country. Even if it’s just playing charades. If you need to get up some stairs, you point to them and signal the fact that Hey, I need your help getting up these three stairs. It works every single time. Listen, life is hard to begin with. It was hard before when you weren’t disabled. Once you’re in a wheelchair or have a disability, that doesn’t mean your life isn’t going to be as hard as it was before. But skipping out on these things because you are afraid of getting hurt means you could miss meeting the man or woman of your dreams, or finding the sport that makes you passionate about life again. I’m scared (to be embarrassed, to fail, to get hurt more). JG: What’s the worst thing that could happen? You could end up in a wheelchair? [Laughs] Living on your terms the way you want to is so much more empowering than sitting home in a closet and hoping nothing happens to you. There might be 100 things you wanted to do in a day before you were injured, and you could do 10. Now there are 100 things you want to do in a day, and you can do eight or nine. It’s about realizing that somebody will always be caring about you and thinking about you, but that only you can live your life. It sucks what happened to you. It totally sucks. But you’ve got another chance to get up tomorrow and have an impact on yourself and on others. It’s about inspiring that person who you tell your story to, and the chance they will go and inspire someone else. You never know: your story may reach that one person who is sitting there and, after reading it, says, “Okay, I’ve got to do this!” James “Gumbie” Gumbert has played and coached wheelchair rugby for 20 years. In 2005, he began as head coach of the U.S. Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby National Team. The team is unbeaten since 2006, having won world titles in 2006 and 2010, and Paralympic medals in 2008 (gold) and 2012 (bronze). In 2010, Gumbert was a finalist for the Paralympic Coach of the Year Award presented by the U.S. Olympic Committee. “This sport is evolving,” Gumbert says. “In the future, I look for the sport to eventually make the crossover into the able-bodied world.” Gumbert was paralyzed after complications from a car accident on Christmas night in 1985. He lives with his wife and 2-year-old twins in Austin, Texas, where he currently serves as Commissioner of the United States Quad Rugby Association, coaches the Texas Stampede Wheelchair Rugby Team and has his sights set on U.S. gold at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games. , “It’s better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” Words of Wisdom —George Washington Who Is Coach Gumbie?
  20. 20. 18 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports Features
  21. 21. Features spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 19 On an autumn morning in 2009, Bill McCormick, an Army Veteran who served in Vietnam, took a walk in the countryside a few miles from his Vermont home and came upon a tangled pile of glass, barbed wire, padlocks and metal heaped against a worn and faded barn. The image resonated with him, and he took a picture. McCormick titled the photograph “Looking Into a PTSD Mind” because each item in it “represented the jumble that exists inside my mind,” he says. McCormick’s experiences in Vietnam led to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fear of crowds and night terrors. When he returned home from war in 1970, he had a hard time determining what direction his life should take. In 1973 he enrolled in an art school in Ontario, Canada, and since then has used photography as an outlet to express his pain. McCormick entered “Looking Into a PTSD Mind” in the annual National Veterans Creative Arts Competition at his local VA. The photograph won Best of Show and earned McCormick an invitation to the 2012 National Veterans Creative Arts Competition in Boston, where he joined other gold medal-winning Veterans from around the country. McCormick says the competitions have helped him because he felt a strong connection to other Veterans who have experienced trauma in combat. “It helps to know that they’ve been through something similar to what I’ve been through and can relate,” he says VA medical facilities use the creative arts as a form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans like McCormick to recover and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. The competition includes 53 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork, as well as 120 categories in the performing arts pertaining to music, dance, drama and creative writing. Selected medal winners are invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival each year. To connect with participants and view photos of the 2012 events visit the Facebook page at VwIpOu. SPECIAL EVENTS Creative Arts Festival Visual and performing arts More Information RENO, NEV. “Looking Into a PTSD Mind”: McCormick’s award-winning photograph. Festival Newsletter: Download at VA Adaptive Sports programs bring together Veterans of all ages and abilities for fun and bragging rights GET STARTED
  22. 22. Makelyia Sheppard puts on his game face and sizes up his competition in the 10K handcycling race at the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. As a first-timer, Sheppard competes in the novice division. An Air Force Veteran, the Colorado native has been wheelchair- bound since 2011, when he suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a car crash. On this day, Sheppard and more than 500 other athletes are gathered to compete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest annual wheelchair sports competition in the world. The Games are a test of stamina, strength and endurance, with hundreds of Veterans competing in 18 sports each year. But for Sheppard, the Games are more than a competition. Following his crash, Sheppard spent two months in a rehabilitation facility. When he finished rehab he locked himself inside his house as he struggled to come to grips with being paralyzed from the waist down. He says the Games gave him the kick he needed to get out of his house and regain his life. Sheppard was introduced to handcycling by a Veterans Affairs physical therapist. After that, the sport became a part of his daily life, and he shifted his focus to train for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. As he trained, he says, he began to shed the sense of isolation that had controlled his life after his injury. Sheppard crosses the finish line of the 10K race finish line in less than 24 minutes, winning the gold medal in the novice division. As people rush to congratulate him, he is once again part of a community that supports and heals its members. Preparations are in full swing for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in June 2013. To learn more about the Wheelchair Games and how to participate or volunteer, visit 20 spring 2013 “When they first come in, they’re wondering what is going on and what’s going to happen to them. I always tell them, ‘Welcome to the life. It’s a different life, but it’s one worth living.’ You’ll see their smile get bigger and you see them getting more confident. It makes me feel like I have a real purpose.” MichaelThomas,58 U.S. Army Milwaukee, WIS. latest result: Competed at 2012 National Wheelchair Basketball Association National Tournament. next up: Lighting up the court with the Wisconsin Thunder basketball team and mentoring Veterans in the spinal cord injury unit at the VA hospital in Milwaukee. Wheelchair Games Air guns, archery, basketball, bowling, field events, handcycling, nine-ball, power soccer, wheelchair rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track, trapshooting, weightlifting More Information TAMPA, FLA. Road test: Handcycling is one of 18 events at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. MISSION RE DEFINED
  23. 23. va .gov/adaptivesports Four max: Golden Age Games athletes may compete in no more than four events. Two minimum. spring 2013 21 an affiliate of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Field was so successful in the Golden Age Games that he went on to compete against other elite senior athletes five times in the National Senior Games. Field has gained national recognition for his achievements in the Games. At the 2012 Golden Age Games held in St. Louis, Field received the Most Inspirational Athlete Award. Field’s wife, Marie, says she believes Field’s passion for swimming is the reason he still has both legs. “Whomever I beat, it’s probably not because I’m better than him. It’s because I practice more,” Field says. To watch videos of Field and other Veterans competing in the Golden Age Games visit the Veterans Affairs YouTube channel and search “Golden Age Games” Thirty-one years ago, Wayne Field, a Civil Air Patrol squadron commander, was knocked unconscious when he and his platoon were taking a Nazi village. That was the last time he ever felt his legs. Field awoke in the hospital with peripheral neuropathy, a disease of the nerves that causes muscle impairment that prevents sensation in the limbs. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his service, but the fighting spirit that kept him alive through World War II did not idle once he arrived home. Though disabled, Field found a new way to represent his country: competitive swimming. Today, Field, 86, has won more than 200 medals. He races every year in national competitions including the National Veterans Golden Age Games, which is the world’s largest sport and recreation competition for Veterans age 55 and older. The Games also serve as a qualifier for the National Senior Games, Golden Age Games Air rifle, billiards, bowling, croquet, checkers, cycling, golf, horseshoes, javelin, shot put, discus, swimming, sled hockey, table tennis More Information Buffalo, ny “I enjoy the training, especially swimming. It starts my day on a positive note.” Louis Bestenheider,88 U.S. Army AIR CORPS, WWII Veteran CLovis, CaLIF. Latest result: Took first place in the 50-yard backstroke at the 2012 Golden Age Games. Finish time (1:04:65) was more than seven seconds faster than in 2011. NEXT UP: Swimming five days weekly and doing water aerobics. At 2013 Golden Age Games, plans to compete in swimming, the half mile cycling event and air rifles. Age 55+: Golden Age Games athletes compete in seven age classifications. Nice shot: A Veteran in action at the 26th National Veterans Golden Age Games. MISSION RE DEFINED
  24. 24. 22 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports Features National Veterans TEE Tournament co-founder Eldon Miller, 56, grew up on a farm in Kalona, Iowa, and always loved the outdoors. In 1974 Miller was blinded by an explosion while serving in the Army in Vietnam. When he returned home and for years after, he searched for ways to stay active. In 1987, Miller learned about the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which is held every year in Colorado for disabled Veterans. After TEE Tournament Bag toss, Bowling, GOlf, Horseshoes, Kayaking More Information VCGCV8 Iowa city, iOWA attending the clinic, he was inspired to start a local tournament, also based on principles of recreational therapy for wounded Veterans. The first TEE (Training, Exposure and Experience) Tournament was held in June 1994 at the Great River Bend Golf Course in Nauvoo, Ill. Thirty-six legally blind Veterans participated in the five-day program. The tournament has since grown into a national program with nearly 200 participating Veterans, annually. Today the tournament is open to Veterans with all types of disabilities, from amputated limbs to spinal cord injuries. For Miller, the TEE Tournament represents his ability to overcome his blindness and depression and create a better world for Veterans. With the help of a guide who lines him up directly with each hole and verbally directs his swing, Miller has a handicap of 17 and scores 50 to 55 through nine holes. “Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you can’t have fun,” Miller says. “Sight isn’t everything.” Check out pictures of Miller and other Veterans at the TEE Tournament on the VA Flickr page at To search for VA facilities, golf courses, adaptive golf programs and community-based organizations near you, visit the VA Adaptive Sports website at 22 spring 2013 “Competing as a power lifter raises my self esteem and confidence so I can take on other challenges which I believed were too difficult. It has made a big difference in my spiritual and family experiences for the betterment of my life.” CharlesKing,62 U.S. Army Philidelphia, Penn. latest result: At the 2012 International Blind Sports Association World Benchpress and Powerlifting Championships, set world records in benchpress (281 lbs), deadlift (407 lbs), and squat (264 lbs). next up: Training five hours per week. Compete in two or three events per year as a member of the powerlifting team for the United States Association of Blind Athletes. Master stroke: Eldon Miller (Army Ret.) cofounded the National Veterans TEE Tournament in 1994. American Lake Veterans Golf Course Tacoma, Wash. Features: covered driving range, large tee boxes, handicapped accessible bunkers and greens, specialized golf carts for mobility-impaired golfers. Free rounds for hospitalized Veterans. Reduced green fee ($12) for Veterans and spouses Veteran greens Heroes Course Los Angeles, Calif. Features: Nine-hole, par-three course. $3 green fee for Veteran outpatients Northport Golf Course Northport, N.Y. Features: Nine-hole course. $15 weekend green fee for Veterans First Swing Clinics The National Amputee Golf Association developed First Swing Clinics to teach adaptive golf to people with physical disabilities. More than 30 clinics are offered annually. Visit index.shtml for more information. MISSION RE DEFINED
  25. 25. On October 23, 1983, a terrorist drove a truck full of explosives into the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 U.S. Marines, Sailors and Soldiers. Phillip Fusco, a Marine Corps Veteran from Joliet, Ill., survived the attack but suffered a traumatic brain injury, a wound that would cause lifelong memory loss, anxiety, nightmares and panic attacks. Nearly 20 years later, while visiting the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., to pick up allergy medication, Fusco described his symptoms to a group of Veterans. Immediately they pointed him to the post-traumatic stress disorder clinic. Fusco’s wife, Rhonda, spent the next few years searching for a way to revive her husband from his depressive behavior. In 2010, she discovered the VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, a week-long adaptive sport camp Summer Sports Clinic Archery, climbing, cycling, kayaking, sailing, surfing, track & field More Information UJs6OC San diego, CALIF. Volunteers are essential to VA special events. Volunteers Welcome To volunteer for the Creative Arts Festival, Wheelchair Games, Golden Age Games, TEE Tournament, Summer Sports Clinic or a local club visit the VA National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events website at focused on therapeutic interventions for Veterans and their families. Fusco was hesitant, but Rhonda insisted. Fusco, Rhonda and their sons spent the next week kayaking, learning track and field events, and enjoying the outdoors. They shared stories and advice with Veterans from across the country. It was the first time since the accident that they felt like a family again, Rhonda says. Since the clinic, Rhonda says she has noticed a change in her husband. She says he is open to trying new activities and encourages daily walks with her. The family bond that was revived at the clinic continued to strengthen and the Fusco family began taking kayak trips together. “Phillip will always struggle with PTSD and the things he saw, but the clinic taught our family that we can still find happiness,” Rhonda says. The National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic is structured to bring the best care and therapy programs available to our nation’s Veterans and their support teams to keep Veterans moving forward in a positive direction of recovery. The clinic empowers Veterans to heal their minds and spirits as they challenge themselves physically and emotionally through summer sports. To watch videos of previous Summer Sports Clinics and other VA special events on YouTube, visit: spring 2013 23 All hands: Phillip Fusco (Marines Ret.) and family at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. “It [Summer Sports Clinic] was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Now, I’m all about getting my own kayak and bike. I’m centered about putting myself in a place where you can do these things on a regular basis.” Kimberly Specht, 37 U.S. AIR FORCE FLORIDA latest result: 2012 Summer Sports Clinic participant moved to the beach for good weather and access to swimming, hiking, biking, surfing, sailing and kayaking. next up: More activity with service dog (to help trim him down). Exploring—and possibly organizing—local groups that connect other Veterans and members of the community. MISSION RE DEFINED
  26. 26. 24 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports end item Anatomy equipment Made with 21st Century alpine ski technology and aircraft-quality aluminum, the current fleet of sit- skis offer rides gentle enough for first timers and thrilling enough for lifelong daredevils. leg cover (not pictured) Made of polypropylene, snaps into place on seat and footrest for warmth and waterproofing. lightweight aluminum outriggers Controlled by hand, providing extra balance and steering ability. The outriggers can be flipped up for a race course or removed. SitSkiof a Adjustable seating Made of kevlar, fiberglass and carbon fiber with back, neck and side support for all-over security and comfort. safety system Includes a seat belt, an evacuation harness that fastens to a rescue vehicle, and a strap to hold the rider’s body to the chair while riding up the lift. shaped skis Makes turning cleaner and quicker. strong wood core base With a fiberglass top plate for extra reinforcement for the ski mounting area. Ensures skis stay secured to base. advanced suspension Absorbs bumps, crud and other terrain obstacles, offering more protection for the skier’s body by controlling the up- and-down movement of the ski. hydraulic jack Raises sit ski height while loading onto a chair-lift. Enables skier to get on lifts easier. 7-inch seat height Ensures a low roll- center for better stability and less chance of spills while racing down the mountain. Photo courtesy of Enabling Technologies. VA’s usage of the photo does not constitute an endorsement.
  27. 27. spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 25 Activation
  28. 28. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Congratulations on pushing yourself along your own Mission ReDefined Salutes All Veterans participating in our 2013 Sports Programs and Special Events