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PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- Twelve seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors attended an adaptive athletics camp Jan. 11 - 13 at Naval Base Ventura County Port Hueneme, Calif.
The camp focused on cycling and archery, two of seven contested sports at the Warrior Games, an annual competition among wounded warrior athletes from all branches of service. All of the camp participants were selected last November at the first Team Navy-Coast Guard trials. The 2013 Warrior Games will take place May 11 - 17.
"When my teammates and I train at home, we just get out and go, and we are on our own. At the camp, we learned all kinds of skills - like how to adjust the breaks on our cycles - we would never get on our own," said Navy Yeoman 1st Class Javier Rodriguez. "The coaches were really great; they kept us all motivated."
Rodriguez, who was injured in 2011 in a motor vehicle accident, currently is confined to a wheelchair. During the camp, he focused on enhancing his cycling skills.
The camp was hosted by Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor, the Department of the Navy's support program for seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen. The camp is one of several adaptive athletics events that will take place this year. For example, members of Team Navy-Coast Guard will train at Penn State University in early February; later that month, NWW also will host an introductory sports clinic at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
The camp was staffed by world-class instructors and experts in adaptive sports, including cycling coach Rick Babington and archery coach Jeff Fabry, who earned a historic gold medal in archery at the 2012 Paralympics in London.
"The camp was a lot of fun, and it was very intense," said Navy Lt. j.g. Timothy Kraynack. "We were able to focus on specific sports, and it was good to have the coaches' eyes on us. We also had some down time and were able to get to know one another a little better."
Kraynack, who currently works at the pediatrics department at Naval Hospital Bremerton, Wash., suffered a seizure in 2011 and has some lower-body impairment. During the camp, he also focused on cycling.
NWW supplies the equipment - from hand cycles to archery bows - for all 35 members of Team Navy-Coast Guard. At the camp, cyclists were provided tool kits and received a bike maintenance tutorial from a mechanic, providing them with a new competitive edge.
"It's great to see the progress our athletes have made over the past two months. They are very eager to compete at the Warrior Games and their enthusiasm shows," said Navy Lt. Megan Haydel, who manages NWW's adaptive athletics program. "What is most important is to see how much the adaptive sport program is helping with their everyday lives. It gives them a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to put one foot in front of the other, and to make and tackle new goals."
It has been proven that adaptive athletics have positive and lasting effects on the physical and emotional well-being of wounded warriors. These athletes typically enjoy greater self-esteem, lower stress levels and fewer secondary medical conditions. All wounded warriors enrolled in NWW are encouraged to participate in adaptive athletic activities.