Resilient World Class Soldier-athletes train for Olympics despite COVID-19
[Source: “Resilient World Class Soldier-athletes train for Olympics despite COVID-19”, Army.mil, Web, 2020 August 5]
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Soldier-athletes in the World Class Athlete Program are hard at work training for the 2021 Summer Olympic Games.
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 Summer Games were pushed back to July 2021, but that did not slow down the WCAP Soldiers.
“It was hard in the beginning of the pandemic, but it was just a matter of time for us to adjust to the situation,” said Staff Sgt. Hillary Bor, 3,000m steeple chase runner. “Our coaches have been great. They send us training plans every week and check in on us.”
As Soldiers, Bor believes they are more equipped to deal with uncertainty like the pandemic.
“I think we have an advantage, we are more resilient,” said Bor. “At the end of the day there are things we cannot control. There is nothing to do but keep training and stay healthy.”
WCAP also has Paralympians training for the games. Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a 2016 Paralympic gold medalist, is training for Paralympic swimming, primarily in the 100m back stroke.
“Training for these games is very different,” said Marks. “Everyone is having to get creative. As Soldiers we have a unique perspective. We are kind of used to dealing with adversity and overcoming these obstacles.”
Marks did not have access to a pool for a while and turned to alternate forms of training.
“Our strength coach, Maj. Jason Barber, gave me a lot of circuit training,” said Marks, a Pat Tillman award recipient. “I did a lot of rowing and work on a SkiErg machine.”
Luckily, the Fort Carson pool is open now for Marks’ training. She continues to prepare for the trials that have yet to be rescheduled.
“WCAP has been very active about problem solving through all of this,” said Marks. “They have been open, honest and calm. The program director, Willie Wilson, has been great, and the leadership is making sure we are safe.”
WCAP, a part of the Installation Management Command, already has six Soldier-athletes qualified: Sgt. Samantha Schultz and Sgt. Amro Elgeziry in modern pentathlon, Sgt. Nick Mower in 10m air pistol, 1st Lt. Amber English in shot gun, Staff Sgt. Sandra Uptagrafft in 25m and 10m pistol and Staff Sgt. Naomi Graham in boxing. Additionally, Sgt. Leonard Korir and Staff Sgt. Augustus Maiyo and are alternates for the marathon
“When the pandemic first began, everything was closed,” said Schultz. “I was running and doing strength and conditioning at home. I did fencing footwork in the garage with a target and got extra cardio in on my bike.”
Schultz mentioned that she was able to use the extra time to work on her mental strength as well as complete a virtual version of the Army’s Basic Leadership Course.
“I know I am physically strong, but now I am tapping into the mental aspect,” said Schultz. “I started working with a psychologist to improve my mental grid and focus.”
Schultz qualified for the Olympics at the 2019 Pan American games where she won a gold medal in the women’s relay and silver in the individual event.
“This will be my first Olympic games,” said Schultz. “I wish I could wear my Army singlet when I compete because the Army has been there with me through everything. It is a huge honor to represent America and the Army at the games.”
As more Soldier-athletes prepare for their trials, the WCAP training facility at Fort Carson, Colorado, has reopened. WCAP has implemented precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy while they work to achieve their Olympic dreams.
For more information about the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, visit www.armywcap.com