June 24–The home-court advantage was strong at the Warrior Games’ wheelchair basketball finals: and their families filled one side of Barber Gym on the Quantico base Tuesday.
When it was nearly bursting, brown uniforms made their way over to the Team /Coast Guard side before Tuesday afternoon’s game. Once that side was full, then lined up along the gym’s walls and doors.
High in the Team bleachers, Emily Delaney blew on her vuvuzela and cried, “Go !”
Her dad, Team athlete Ryan Delaney, leaned close to his daughter.
“That’s the only time you’ll be allowed to say that,” he said in her ear.
But fans weren’t just there to see the teams vie for the gold medal. They were also there to cheer on their fellow service members.
The Warrior Games, a series of eight Paralympic-style sporting events for wounded, ill and injured veterans, will continue at Quantico through Sunday.
Camaraderie aside, the brown-uniform-wearing crowd cheered just a little bit louder every time a red uniform sank a basket.
“I think they’re unstoppable,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick Smith of his branch’s team, which beat Team 52-11 on Monday.
By the 15-minute mark and with a 10-point lead, the seemed to be headed in the same trajectory. At halftime, the home team was up 32-14, but nobody on the away-team side looked downtrodden.
Petty 1st Class Jenna Golding said she was amazed at how, despite the fast-paced and intense nature of the game, players and staff and even fans found countless ways to pat each other on the back, laugh with and help each other up.
Then again, she said, it’s just a game.
“Ultimately, we all work together for the same goal,” Golding said. “We are the U.S. . . . and we have one mission: to protect America.”
The went on to win, 57-24, claiming the event’s gold medal for the third time since 2010.
The /Coast Guard team, which beat the and Special Operations Command teams to advance to the final, received silver for the first time.
“I’m very, very proud. They played together as a whole team, played a whole, complete game and fought to the end for it,” said Daniel Cashen, Team wheelchair basketball coach. “I’m very excited for the upcoming years because we’re going to take the gold medal back from the .”
Eric Rodriguez, a player on the team, said the played a dedicated game of basketball.
“They’re getting better and better every year,” he said.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Blair said the sport, which he’d never seen before, was exciting, but the atmosphere and energy of the crowd seemed much more welcoming and enthusiastic than high school sports.
“I think the fact that they’re so good at what they do, and put in so much hard work and dedication,” he said, “just shows that they have the fortitude to do whatever they put their minds to.”
Dawnthea Price: email@example.com
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