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Children, families get hands-on training at Warrior Games' Expo

By: Chhun Sun
June 3, 2018 Updated: June 4, 2018 at 6:31 am
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Wheelchair rugby was one of the events that the public got a chance to tryout at the Expo at the Warrior Games at the Air Force Academy on Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Jenn and Kevin Beck are raising their 4-year-old son Gray to become a proud American.

On Sunday, the parents from Highlands Ranch had the opportunity to show him what others have done for their country. They took him to The Expo, a family-friendly event during the Warrior Games at the Air Force Academy that allows attendees an up-close-and-personal look at what hundreds of wounded, injured or ill athletes representing various military forces from across the globe go through in their sport.

They learn it's not all fun and games.

"We want to show him all kinds of athletes," Jenn Beck said. "Some have injuries you can see, some have injuries that you can't. We want to show him that it's important to appreciate all these athletes."

The Expo featured wheelchair rugby, a tug-of-war, a bounce house, tennis courts and workouts by a trainer. Vendors promoting Paralympic equipment and sports were on hand to give attendees a better understanding of what the Warrior Games are all about. Dozens of families came despite an overcast day while Warrior Games events were taking place.

National wheelchair rugby team members and their head coach James Gumbert provided demonstrations. Two-time Paralympian Karin Korb ran wheelchair tennis clinics.

The Warrior Games started as a way for the Department of Defense to help wounded, ill and injured service members with their recovery and rehabilitation by exposing them to adaptive sports.

The athletes compete in Paralympic-style competition, and they come from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Command along with members from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force and the Canadian Armed Forces.

The athletes compete in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball. With about 300 athletes competing, three new sports were introduced this year: indoor rowing, powering and time trial cycling.

The Games returned this year to Colorado Springs, the site of the inaugural Games in 2010. The eight-day free event ends Saturday.

A sport that's yet to be part of the Games is wheelchair rugby. But athletes and coaches in that sport were at The Expo to give children a chance to try it out in their own wheelchairs. Jason Regier, head coach of club team the Denver Harlequins, watched the kids bump wildly into each other's chairs and noted the sport can be fun but also rough. "It's not only legal but encouraged to hit, and that's how you stop the other team," he added.

The Expo, located outside the Academy's Cadet Gymnasium, continues 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.

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