Greetings Sport Fans! Wanted to send out a note to you to let you know how much I appreciated your love and support during my trip to the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia! My apologies for taking some time to get this out, it’s taken a bit to get back into the swing of things! I want to share my experience with you, each and every one of you were there with me, so here goes!!
The competition was tough, but what an experience! It would’ve been awesome to see more of Sydney and Australia, and even though this was my second time there I still was unable to see the place…rats!!! Nevertheless, I was there as a competitor to compete and I did!
Headed to Opening Day Ceremonies at the Iconic Sydney Opera House!
First was the Cycling, which I had prepared for with the help of some awesome trainers, and top of the line equipment, and although the cards would end up being stacked against me, I would prevail…in my own way! To start, my bike was a little damaged upon arrival, thanks to our Team USA mechanic he was able to get it back up and running; however, I did lose two gears, so hill climbs were going to be a bit difficult! Then I got my start time, but it was the same start time as the able bodied cyclist…Hmmm! Come to find out, since there was a lack of cyclist with similar disabilities as myself I was reclassified into the open category, which meant I would be competing against able bodied cyclist with minimal or no physical disabilities! I questioned my coaches about it, they basically said that my chances were slim to none that I would place, that I really didn’t stand a chance! That was a hard pill to swallow, I had trained so hard, but it was what it was! Time to make this race my own! A friend of mine who my wife says thinks, acts, and is like my twin came up with a brilliant plan, after all he was an Operator back in the day, just like me!! Great minds think alike! After the hurt, pain, and crying was over it was time to put my plan into action! Due to the lack of competitors, they were going to start the women’s division with the men as well! So, I decided to tow Team USA women around the course allowing them to draft off of me so they could save energy for the finish. When it came to the last lap they would be on their own, as I had other plans! The horn sounds and we’re off! The plan was working, the ladies were off to a great pace, and they settled in nicely, the race was on! As the last lap approached it was time for my race, I crossed the finish line to the sound of the last lap bell! Just up ahead my wife Renee was hanging over the side of the guard rails holding out an Invictus Games flag, which I grabbed on my way by securing it in my handlebar! For those that don’t know, I can no longer ride an upright bike, so I now operate a 3 wheeled recumbent! Flag secured, now off to phase 2, just a few meters down the road my twin Jason was hanging over the guard rail with a lit, Key West Rodriguez Reserve Cigar, which I grabbed, and smoked the entire…last…lap…of…the…race! Did I mention the Prince of Sussex was watching this race! Did I mention this race was being televised “Live”! Did I mention after the finish line I did a victory lap that included a pit stop to stand up, reach over the railing to kiss my wife! Then made a U-turn and High Fived all the spectators on my way back through the finish line again! I can proudly report that people won’t remember who placed Gold, Silver, or Bronze, but they will remember the guy who smoked the cigar, carrying the IG flag while finishing the Crit, men’s recumbent division!
Next was the Rowing Competition! This too I trained for a lot! There was a lot of competition in this event! This was the first time I competed on such a big level like this! I gave it my all and came in fourth only a couple of meters behind third, which when I look at it realistically I was only beat by a couple of meters, and the guy who beat me was using both arms, I only use one! Now that I know how to train for my disability, I know how to beat them all next time! This was a lot of fun!
The Rowing Competition
Last but certainly not least, swimming! By this day in the competition I had still not medaled! I knew if I was gonna do it, it had to be now! Again, I am only able to swim with one arm and limited use of one leg, but because I have been a “fish” my entire life I knew this was an edge I had over most, although the competition was still tough! One of the coolest things was knowing that I was about to compete in the exact same pool that Michael Phelps did when he was 15 years old at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000! So it was on, when it was all said and done I had come away with a Silver Medal in the 50m Backstroke, and a Gold Medal in the 50m Breaststroke, which has always been my specialty! It was a long day, and took everything that I had! I walked away an Invictus Games Champion!
50m Breaststroke Final (Gold)
I’ve been told my entry form is top notch!
Silver & Gold Medals
My time spent in Sydney was as a competitor and I was blessed to have my family there to cheer me on and support me! I was very happy that they were able to enjoy a different country, culture, continent, and lifestyle! Renee enjoyed it so much she said she would move there in a heartbeat! I don’t blame her, the Aussies were fantastic hosts, with whom we made several friends! Although they had to cram in a lot of sites with minimal time, they still had a blast!
I want to thank you for supporting me in this journey, it was a dream turned into a goal turned into reality, I thank you for having a hand in my accomplishments! I hope to get invited to try out for the 2019 Warrior Games as part of Team Air Force again; this would lead to another go at the Invictus Games and Team USA that will be held at The Hague in the Netherlands 2020! This last round took a lot out of me; competition has been in my blood since I was a little guy! The future remains to be written, but I can assure you whatever is written will be epic…stay tuned! Thank you for the love and support, I thank God for all of you…the gifts in my life! God bless, Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!
97 y/o Ms. Daphne Dunne, WWII Widow and friend of the Royals
Thank you all; because of you this was all possible! God bless!
Shay, Renee, & Family