NVWG powerlifters raise the bar at Rockefeller Center
Paralyzed veterans had some unbelievable experiences Thursday afternoon at the 40th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in New York City.
That included more than a couple handfuls of athletes competing in powerlifting at the Top of the Rock’s 67th floor observation deck at Rockefeller Center. Some athletes even got a view of the Empire State Building as they sat up after they finished their lifts.
“The view out here was like, ‘Oh man!’ It made me want to lift more,” says 64-year-old Army veteran Wendell Little, a Wadesboro, N.C., resident with a T7 spinal-cord injury (SCI) who lifted 160 pounds and finished with a gold medal. “Nice view, top of the line.”
Thursday marked the first day for the Games’ second group to compete. Wheelchair athletes headed to Randall’s Island to compete in adaptive disc golf, field events and wheelchair softball before having powerlifting at Rockefeller Center and then nine-ball billiards at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in the late afternoon and evening.
It was an adventure. Right before the powerlifting event started, organizers from the NVWG, sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), started moving it and setting up indoors because of the threat of rain and lightning. But they moved it back outside because the storm and bad weather never materialized.
Powerlifters were split into two groups on the open-air 67th floor of Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, with one on the Empire State Building side and the second group on the other side. Powerlifting proceeded as usual, with competitors getting three lift attempts to record their highest weight.
But athletes thought it was a totally new experience.
“Pretty remarkable. Never done something in my life like this,” says Miguel Martinez, a 27-year-old Marine Corps veteran who lives in Union County, N.J.
Two powerlifters also had unique moments earlier.
Two PVA Wisconsin Chapter members — LeToi Adams and Terrence Green — met with VA Secretary Denis McDonough before the powerlifting event.
Adams admitted she was inspired, but nervous. She and McDonough talked about wheelchair basketball and then spotted each other during their practice lifts. Then, the VA secretary shook her hand and presented her with a challenge coin.
“That’s an important guy, and it was just awesome to be introduced and get a coin from him,” says Adams, an Army veteran who has a T10 incomplete SCI from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011. “I’m over here feeling, like, really blessed, like, really lucky just to have this opportunity.”
An Army veteran, Green was nervous, too, but he enjoyed talking to McDonough and telling him that he’s appreciated the help.
“I told him, ‘Thank you for doing what you’re doing for us and getting the VA back on track and taking care of the vets,’ especially the disabled vets and the homeless vets ’cause there’s a lot of homeless vets out there,” says Green, an Army veteran with C4-7 and T11/T12 SCI. “He is so nice. You could tell, like, he’s one of the guys. He said, ‘Nope, nope, nope, you don’t have to thank me. I’m doing this for you guys. I work for you guys.’ I was just like, ‘Just please help our vets.’”