COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NNS) -- Team Navy/Coast Guard kicked off the competition at the 2012 Warrior Games by participating in cycling events at the U.S. Air Force Academy, May 1.
The men's 20-km recumbent cycling race brought drama as retired Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Jim Castaneda had one of his tires burst in the first turn of the course. No stranger to overcoming obstacles with limited mobility in one leg resulting from a 2007 stroke, he chose to not let the failure of the bicycle overcome his determination to finish.
"I kept thinking about my son and I wanted to show him to keep trying," Castaneda said.
With his son serving as inspiration, Castaneda continued pedaling over the more than ten remaining miles. Even when the strength in his one strong leg was exhausted, he willed himself to fight up and down the hills of the course.
Several times race officials asked if he wanted to stop and offered to give him a ride to the finish, but he would not stop or quit. As the other cyclists passed, they provided encouragement.
"I was hearing the Marines say 'don't quit', and the Air Force guys were saying 'don't stop.' It
gave me energy," said Castaneda, who resides in San Antonio. Coming down the final stretch was "like coming into a sea of ships of Navy and Coast Guard. It boosted my energy, hearing the voices telling me not to stop. I felt their energy. It was exhilarating."
Surrounded by cheering teammates and Navy Safe Harbor staff, Castaneda pushed through the finish line to the applause of the hundreds of spectators.
"It was a great feeling [to watch Castaneda finish]," said Navy Safe Harbor Operations Officer Lt. David Noriega. "Castaneda has always been the spirit of the team. He never gives up; he represents the spirit of Navy Safe Harbor."
While many found inspiration from Castaneda's race, he is quick to acknowledge the other examples of teamwork and courage around him.
"Everybody here is a hero, I didn't give up," said Castaneda. "I'm just like everybody here. I have my one minute of glory."
One such example is retired Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Oswald Gould, who competed in the men's open 30-km race. A cancer survivor and newcomer to the sport of cycling, Gould was excited for this opportunity to compete and to finish the longest race of the day.
By the end of the race, he was in tremendous pain and was tempted to slow down. However, as Gould began to weaken, team captain Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angelo Anderson, rather than speed by and try to win a medal, came to Gould's side to ride with and support his teammate.
"Angelo encouraged me and told me to keep pumping," said Gould, who lives in Chesapeake, Va. "I kept going and came home strong."
Upon reflecting back on the struggle of the race, Gould offers this advice "Think of a light beyond the tunnel; there is always hope. Keep fighting until the end - no matter how difficult."
Gunner's Mate 1st Class Jeannette Tarqueno demonstrated amazing resilience as well in the women's 30-km race. Injured in an accident on board the USS Port Royal (CG 73) in December that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, Tarqueno has had to re-learn basic motor skills such as walking and talking. Before coming to the Warrior Games, Tarqueno, who resides in Pearl Harbor, had not trained on an upright bicycle due to issues related to balance. Despite her limitations, she mustered great courage and determination to compete in cycling and achieve a fourth place finish in a field of experienced riders.
The 35 warrior athletes are participating as Team Navy/Coast Guard, sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's Wounded Warrior support program, a key component of the Department of the Navy's 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative. The initiative is meant to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.
The Warrior Games, hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee's paralympics military program, provides an opportunity for wounded, ill, and injured service members to participate in competitive sports against members of other branches of service.
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