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Prince Harry, Olympian Swim Champ Franklin Welcome Troops to 2013 Warrior Games

Monday, May 13, 2013

By Joseph Andrew Lee 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Blue Star mom Mary Ann Jimenez couldn’t stop shaking Sunday after her son captured the first gold medal of the 2013 Warrior Games.

“It was the best Mother’s Day present ever,” she said after her son, Marine Staff Sgt. Ronnie Jimenez, won the 10K men’s handcycling event. “We’re all so proud of him.”

Held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the United States Air Force Academy, the Warrior Games presented by Deloitte is a paralympic competition for wounded, ill and injured troops and veterans hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Throughout the week, five American teams – one each from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard and Special Operations – and the British Armed Forces team will face off in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.

Once again, the USO is playing a large support role at the Games. The organization is hosting a two-hour family event today that includes caricatures, face painting, a magician, family games, carnival snacks and arts-and-crafts stations where children can make signs and medals in honor of their competing parent.

“The USO is fully committed to making this a memorable experience for the athletes and their families,” said USO Vice President of Communications Gena Fitzgerald.

The USO is also supporting athletes at each venue with the Mobile USO, duffle bags, snacks and on-site support made possible by Rocky Mountain USO staff and volunteers. 

The Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Fisher House Foundation, AT&T, BP, Budweiser and the Semper Fi Fund are also supporting Warrior Games.

The Games’ opening ceremonies were held at the Olympic Training Center on Saturday, where Britain’s Prince Harry, four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Missy Franklin and Navy Lt. Brad Snyder lit the cauldron.

Snyder, who competed at the 2012 Warrior Games before winning three medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, was blinded by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan in September 2011.

“I am so proud to be here,” Snyder said. “Last year, I watched from the athlete section as Melissa Stockwell lit the cauldron as the honorary torchbearer and I was so inspired. I am thankful for the opportunity this year to light the cauldron and pass the torch to these athletes and help them find their place in a movement that means so much to me.”

Stockwell – a retired Army first lieutenant – was the first female soldier wounded in Iraq. She had her left leg amputated above the knee in 2004 after her convoy vehicle was hit by an explosive device in Baghdad. She went on to swim at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and is a paratriathlon hopeful for 2016.

“At this time last year, Brad Snyder was only eight months removed from his injury, competing at the Warrior Games,” said Scott Blackmun, chief executive officer for the USOC. “Today, he joined us in the opening ceremony as a three-time Paralympic Games medalist, which is testament to how powerful this event can be for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. After competing here, there is no limit to what these men and women will be able to accomplish.”

Among the Team Army athletes is Margaux Mange, a retired soldier the USO is sponsoring in Walking with the Wounded’s 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge. Mange won a silver medal Sunday in the Women’s Bicycle Open and a received a kiss on the cheek by Prince Harry. She expects to compete in track and field events later this week.

The competition will run through May 16 and is free and open to the public. To view the schedule, visit teamusa.org/warriorgames.

“The organizations responsible for putting [all this] together should be just as proud as the athletes here,” Prince Harry said. “You've got the Olympics, you've got the Paralympics. There's no reason the Warrior Games shouldn't be recognized worldwide.”

* * *

Photo caption: Four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Missy Franklin, left, Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, center, and Britain's Prince Harry prepare to light the cauldron Saturday to officially open the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. (USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee) 

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