• Mon. Mar 20th, 2023

Marine Corps adaptive sports enable athletes a different shot at glory


Mar 17, 2023

Dorian Gardner was a Marine Corps sergeant serving in Afghanistan in 2010 when an improvised explosive device took his left eye and left him legally blind.

Right after getting evacuated from Delaram, Afghanistan, he was assigned to Wounded Warrior Regiment in Hawaii and, when recovered, he opted to keep in the Marine Corps. The tall, athletic Marine had been a stand out basketball player amongst his peers prior to his injury but, with his visual impairment, the game he loved was out of attain. He stated he did not assume he’d compete once again.

“I gave that up, you know, there is not considerably space for basketball … when your depth perception is gone,” Gardner stated.

Right after his injury, Gardner stated, a lot of folks told him to take a healthcare retirement and leave the Marine Corps. But, he stated, he had set objectives for himself in the Marines and wasn’t going to let a disability get in his way.

“The Marine Corps is — day in and day out — a difficult go,” Gardner stated, “but performing it with restricted vision and getting to be quite reliant on other people for help, day to day, created points a bit tougher. But I was determined to prove to myself and everyone who doubted me that I could nonetheless do this job — that I could nonetheless be a Marine.”

Now a master sergeant assigned to Camp Pendleton, Gardner is not just back to competing — he’s winning medals.

Gardner is amongst the veterans and active duty Marines competing in the Marine Corps Trials, an annual competitors hosted by the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. Trials have been held at Camp Pendleton final week and Gardner competed in a number of events, such as wheelchair rugby.

The game is played on a basketball court, and competitors wheeled themselves up and down it in specially-made chairs constructed to take a beating — or, to dish them out. Rugby is a notoriously rough sport and, Gardner stated, the game on wheels is no diverse.

“It really is nonetheless a fairly rough sport even in the wheelchair,” Gardner stated. “The chairs are made particularly to take effect. There is defensive chairs (and) there is offensive chairs.”

Wheelchair rugby is played by folks with several disabilities, not just the ones that have an effect on their potential to stroll or run.

Daniel Norman, a retired Marine who lives in Utah, loves the sport. Norman is a veteran of the trials and previously competed at national and international adaptive sports competitions.

Norman stated that regardless of any disabilities, the competitors do not go simple on 1 a different.

“We’re Marines — we’re competitive by nature,” Norman stated. “We want to win. They are all my close friends (and) I really like them to death, but when they are on an opposite group, we go ham. We go challenging.”

Gardner started competing in 2017 and stated adaptive sports showed him what he is nonetheless capable of.

“I found that there are nonetheless so a lot of points I can do,” Gardner stated. “Right after pondering to myself, ‘life is more than,’ adaptive sports seriously opened my eyes and showed me there are so a lot of points I could nonetheless do, regardless of my injury.”

Gardner, who is nearing his 20-year mark in the Marines, is having prepared to retire. But, he says, his athletic pursuits are just starting.

“I’m going to be packing it up and retiring just after 20 years but that is when the training’s gonna commence,” he stated.

Gardner has a new aim — to compete in the 2024 Summer time Paralympics in Paris.

Competitors who qualify from final week’s trials will be invited to the national Warrior Games exactly where they will compete against adaptive athletes from the other service branches. From there, it really is on to the Invictus Games, an international competitors amongst wounded service members and veteran athletes.

At the trials, Gardner won gold in shot place and archery. Norman took gold in the one hundred meters, energy lifting, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

The Marines have not but announced which athletes from the trials will be invited to the Warrior Games.