COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NNS) -- Members of Team Navy began arriving May 4 in Colorado Springs, Colo., to prepare for the fourth annual Warrior Games, a Paralympic-like competition taking place May 11 - 16 among more than 200 wounded warriors from the United States and United Kingdom.
The training camp - which kicked off May 5 and will conclude May 10, the day before Opening Ceremonies - allows Team Navy to acclimate to the 7,000-foot altitude and focus on team-building.
The wounded warrior athletes are using a variety of state-of-the-art local training venues and working closely with their coaches throughout the week.
"Training is going really well. The altitude adjustment and long flights definitely can take a toll, but the athletes are enjoying themselves. The Warrior Games are a bit like a family reunion for all of us," said Navy Lt. Megan Haydel, who oversees the development and training of Team Navy.
"Leading up to the Warrior Games we hosted a lot of single-sport training camps, allowing the wounded warrior athletes to build individual skills. Bringing them together like this helps them bond as a team, which is critical," she added.
Navy Chief Gunner's Mate Jeannette Tarqueno was glad to be training alongside her teammates again.
"I love being around my team. They never fail to inspire and motivate me. I feel like I am at home when I am with them," said Tarqueno, who currently is stationed with Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. "It took me some time to get settled in, but I am getting better as time goes by."
Tarqueno is Team Navy's first-ever female Ultimate Champion contender; she will compete in a pentathlon-style event during the Warrior Games that pits wounded warriors against one another in a variety of disciplines.
Seated volleyball and wheelchair basketball practices are taking place at the Olympic Training Center in the same gymnasiums where the athletes will play during the Warrior Games. The practices acquaint them with the facilities, helping them calibrate their expectations for competition. Also, the gymnasiums prominently feature photos of Olympians and inspirational quotes, providing the athletes an additional source of motivation.
"Our swimming practices also are taking place at the Olympic Training Center, and, yesterday, Team Navy members were swimming alongside an Olympic athlete," said Haydel. "Proximity to greatness breeds even more greatness. It is impossible not to be inspired while training here."
Returning gold-medalist retired Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Nathan DeWalt is looking forward to tackling new challenges at the Warrior Games.
"This is my fourth year participating in the Navy's adaptive sports program, and I am excited to be here and compete with everyone," said DeWalt. "I used the air rifle for the first time today and it is pretty challenging; it is much different than a regular weapon. I am learning a lot."
DeWalt, an accomplished athlete who has participated in adaptive athletic opportunities throughout the country, will compete in shooting and wheelchair basketball during the Warrior Games.
The Warrior Games includes competitions in archery, cycling, seated volleyball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. The goal of the Warrior Games isn't necessarily to identify the most skilled athletes, but rather to demonstrate the incredible potential of wounded warriors through competitive sports.
Team Navy is sponsored by Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. The team members have upper-body and/or lower-body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses, and/or post-traumatic stress.
"The Games, and Team Navy, have brought a lot into my life. I hope I can represent them proudly," said Tarqueno.
DeWalt and Tarqueno are enrolled in NWW, which coordinates the non-medical care of more than 1,000 seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and provides resources and support to their families. The program is a department of Fleet and Family Readiness within Commander, Navy Installations Command. All enrollees in NWW are encouraged to make athletics - which has proven healing benefits - a key component of their recovery plans.
To learn more about NWW, the Warrior Games and adaptive athletics, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil; call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.