Warrior Games Returns to Colorado for 2018

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By Betta Ferrendelli

Exclusive live coverage from  The O&P EDGE.

The ninth annual 2018 Department of Defense (DOD) Warrior Games were held June 2-9 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the city that hosted the inaugural event in 2010.

Nearly 300 athletes competed in the games, Paralympic-style competition between the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and the Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defense Force, and for the first time in the games' history, the Canadian Armed Forces also competed. In addition to the eight established events—archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball—three new adaptive sports were added to the games this year—indoor rowing, powerlifting, and time-trial cycling.

The DOD developed the games eight years ago to aid and enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill, and injured service members and to expose them to adaptive sports. The games were an ideal outlet for Dakota Hollingsworth, a 23-year-old from Oregon serving in the Navy and stationed in Virginia. He was severely injured in a hit-and-run as he rode his motorcycle in March 2017. "I was super active before the accident," said Hollingsworth, who suffered two broken legs and endured numerous surgeries from the accident. "After that I was holed up in the hospital for months."

Hollingsworth competed in the archery competition. "My grandpa was a bow hunter," he said. "And it's always something I've wanted to try."

Team Canada member Jason Melo, 32, who served in the Army in Afghanistan in 2010, participated in the swimming competition. Melo, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, described the games as a place for service members who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to come together for camaraderie and competition. "It's incredibly humbling and inspiring to be a part of this," he said. "It's our first time here and we're excited to be here. It is a great place for everyone to come together to experience this."

To earn the ultimate champion title, athletes scored points as they competed in their respective functional classifications in the events. Ross Alewine, an infantryman in the Army, earned first place. Alewine achieved the top spot in every sporting event, receiving 28 points. Rafael Morfinencisco, an Air Force service member, scored second with 24 points. Altermese Kendrick, an Army chaplain assistant, came in third with 17 points. She defeated Stacie Shafran, a public affairs officer with the Air Force, after a tie breaker for third place. Fifth place went to Navy SEAL Patrick Ferguson, who earned five points.

SOCOM will host the 2019 Warrior Games June 21-30 in Tampa, Florida.