United States Vice President Joe Biden presents PVA Florida Gulf Coast member Sualauvi “Sua” Tuimaleali’ifano a gold medal for his part in leading Team USA to victory over Denmark at the 2016 Invictus Games. Photo Christopher DiVirgilio.
Paralyzed Veterans of America members helped push rugby Team USA to gold
The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) was a huge presence at the 2016 Invictus Games, but it was the skills of PVA members Jesse Graham, Henry Sawyer and Sualauvi Tuimaleali’ifano that helped push their team to the top.
Family, friends and fans were lined up outside the doors of HP Field House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday in anticipation of the wheelchair rugby gold medal match between Team USA and Denmark.
PVA members Jesse Graham (center) and Sualauvi “Sua” Tuimaleali’ifano (right) and U.S. Marine veteran Anthony McDaniel go for gold against Denmark at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla. Photo Christopher DiVirgilio.
Earlier in the week, teams from Australia, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Denmark and the United States faced off in preliminary rounds, with the U.S., Australia, Denmark and the United Kingdom advancing into the semifinals.
The United States showed the world that when it comes to the game of quad rugby, they’re tough to beat, finishing the tournament undefeated. The United States came out hitting hard during the semifinal match between Australia, toppling the team from down under, 36-15, to advance to the finals.
The Brits provided the fans with plenty of action but despite their “home-field” advantage, fell to Denmark 31-26 and failed to clinch a spot for gold in the finals.
The Battle for Gold
After a long day of high temperatures and humidity, fans were relieved to be indoors for the gold medal match between the United States and Denmark. But the heat was about to be turned up as both teams took the court and fans on both sides were on their feet, waving their nation’s flags and cheering in anticipation.
United States Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, took center court to welcome the fans and thanked the athletes for their service and sacrifice to their countries. Although instructed by ESPN producers to face the cameras, Biden decided he’d rather face the “heroes” as he praised them for their commitment to duty. Then, he rendered a hand salute, wished them good luck and joined Prince Harry in the stands among the fans.
It was the United States’ Anthony McDaniel that dealt first blood as both teams came out strong. Despite Denmark’s Maurice Manuel’s strong ability to break through the USA’s defenses, it was Team USA that eventually beat Denmark, 28-19.
For more results, visit Invictus Games.