August’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games in New York City was a huge success — even as a combined event.
By Charles Brown
Veterans took the challenge and competed both in-person and virtually. Every event was a competition to the end. The true competition of athletes and veterans was seen in their eyes on the blistering hot softball fields. The field events were equally brutal, and the athletes were doing everything they needed to do to compete at the highest level.
Wheelchair basketball was another huge competitive event, where it took a free-throw playoff in a sudden death victory format to decide the team that would play in the gold-medal game.
As the first large gathering of veterans with disabilities since the beginning of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, everyone took precautions. Masks were worn when required, and we did self-COVID tests each day.
In the early competition, the power soccer games were nail-biters dominated by wicked shots and cunning defenses. I will say that the purpose-built power chair can dominate a game, but one athlete who has played in his regular chair for years pushed through for the gold again this year.
Wheelchair rugby saw a grueling competition, where the athletes almost had to play iron-man rugby (no substitutions). Admittedly, it was very taxing and one athlete had to receive medical attention, but he recovered. Table tennis saw the experienced players trying their old tricks and the novices really enjoying the experience and walking away with some medals.
Boccia is an event that seems to always bring the competitor out in everyone. With the classes playing different days, it was a little different, as the participants were more concentrated on their own games and those of their immediate competitors.
One of the more historic places to host an event was high atop iconic Rockefeller Center. The center’s Top of the Rock observation platform was the host site for powerlifting, and it didn’t fail to provide amazing views, as well as great competition. The Games’ logo was on the protective glass around the competition areas, and it only served to enhance the competitive spirit.
Well done, competitors, officials, support staff, caregivers, volunteers, coaches, sponsors (partners) and everyone involved. Thank you to the best partner ever, the Department of Veterans Affairs. Your team consistently goes above and beyond to help ensure the veteran competitors have the best experience possible.
The successful collaboration with our outstanding and dedicated Paralyzed Veterans of America Sports Department made these Games rock solid. You have set the bar high, and I can promise you that next year’s event in Tempe, Ariz., will be even more grand. Congratulations, and I can’t wait.
To me, there couldn’t have been a better place to host the first NVWG since the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone who was at the Games in any capacity had to do a COVID-19 test every day. I would rather put myself through that very minor inconvenience every day and get to see my fellow veterans experience life-changing events than sit at home.
I know we’re currently facing a second serious wave of COVID-19 with the Delta variant, and that could sideline all the gains we’ve made as a nation. But we must continue to fight and get through this. We must remember the decisions we make today directly impact our future.
The NVWG is proof that the best of us is inside of us, and that we just need a small opportunity to let it out and shine again. Please stay safe, follow the safety protocols and know that the future is bright!