• Fri. Mar 24th, 2023

Marine Corps adaptive sports permit athletes a additional 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.

Quickly following acquiring evacuated from Delaram, Afghanistan, he was assigned to Wounded Warrior Regiment in Hawaii and, following recovered, he opted to preserve in the Marine Corps. The tall, athletic Marine had been a stand out basketball player amongst his peers just ahead of his injury but, with his visual impairment, the game he loved was out of attain. He stated he did not assume he’d compete when much more.

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

Quickly following his injury, Gardner stated, a lot of persons told him to take a healthcare retirement and leave the Marine Corps. But, he stated, he had set targets 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 tricky go,” Gardner stated, “but undertaking it with restricted vision and possessing to be seriously reliant on other people for aid, day to day, made aspects a bit tougher. But I was determined to prove to myself and everybody 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 quantity 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 distinctive.

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

Wheelchair rugby is played by persons with diverse disabilities, not just the ones that influence their capability 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 in spite of any disabilities, the competitors in no way go simple on a single unique a additional.

“We’re Marines — we’re competitive by nature,” Norman stated. “We want to win. They are all my very good pals (and) I appreciate them to death, but when they are on an opposite group, we go ham. We go tricky.”

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

“I identified that there are nonetheless so a lot of aspects I can do,” Gardner stated. “Quickly following taking into consideration to myself, ‘life is much more than,’ adaptive sports undoubtedly opened my eyes and showed me there are so a lot of aspects I could nonetheless do, regardless of my injury.”

Gardner, who is nearing his 20-year mark in the Marines, is acquiring ready to retire. But, he says, his athletic pursuits are just beginning.

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

Gardner has a new objective — to compete in the 2024 Summer season season Paralympics in Paris.

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

At the trials, Gardner won gold in shot spot and archery. Norman took gold in the a single hundred meters, power lifting, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

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