LONDON (AFNS) --
Members of the Invictus Games U.S. Team finished their second day of training by practicing road cycling at Lee Valley VeloPark here Sept. 9.
Competitors on both upright solo and recumbent bikes tested out the one-mile road circuit to familiarize themselves with the track before the Invictus Games road cycling competition begins Sept. 13.
“This is a very fast-paced course, and if you’re not careful, you can go flying,” said retired Petty officer 2nd Class Isaac Francois, who’s competing in track, road cycling, archery and field events. “The handling and the turns are different. This is a professional track, and we’ve never been on a track like this before so it’s good to get a feel for the track where we’ll be competing.”
Francois said his personal goal while at competing at the Invictus Games is to medal in at least one event.
“I would hate to go home without a medal - silver, bronze or gold,” he said. “I want to beat the Brits in the track, so I’m going to get a medal in track.”
An Air Force teammate of Francois’, retired Tech. Sgt. Ryan Pinney, echoed his words about the benefits of familiarizing himself with the track but said the team needs to be careful not to push themselves too hard before the real competition begins.
“There was maybe a little too much exertion than I’d like today because we’re getting down to competition time, so this should be the time we’re tapering off,” Pinney said, “but altogether, it’s good to get out to the venues, see what we’re competing in and know what to expect when we get out there.”
Pinney said the USA Team has very strong competitors in both the upright solo and recumbent bike events.
“USA Team is good, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, but it’s not going to be given to us,” he said. “We’re going to have to go out there and get it, and all the competitors out there from all the different nations are trying to accomplish the same goal as we are, but I feel really confident about our team.”
While some of her teammates already have medals on their minds, Army Sgt. Erin Stewart, who is stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, said she’s still coming to grips with the reality that she actually made the team and is about to compete in the Invictus Games.
“This event brings everyone from (Operation Enduring Freedom) and (Operation Iraqi Freedom) together. We all fought in the same war, so it’s nice having the camaraderie and a little friendly competition between the nations,” she said. “It’s also an honor because you’re representing your country. I don’t even know how I made it here, it’s mindblowing. It’s very humbling.”
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Hammond said he’s very excited to compete alongside his fellow U.S. service members but also acknowledged the importance to compete against wounded warriors from of other countries.
“I don’t represent the U.S. Marine Corps here but America; we’re representing the Stars and Stripes, and that’s the coolest thing,” said Hammond, who’s stationed at Camp Pendelton, San Diego, and is competing in recumbent cycling and rowing. “A lot of time we’ve trained and fought alongside each other in combat, but now we get to play. We’re not shedding blood, we’re shedding sweat.”
The Invictus Games will take place Sept. 10-14 at the site of the 2012 summer Olympics and will feature athletes competing in various Paralympic-style events, including swimming, track and field, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby, among others.