Warrior Games competitors make ‘something out of nothing’ through sports

Photo of a Warrior Games athlete preparing to shoot a rifle.

Retired Navy lieutenant John Edmonston, seen here competing at last year's Warrior Games, will compete for the title of Ultimate Champion in this year's Warrior Games. Ultimate Champion contestants compete in five events, including shooting. Photo courtesy of John C. Edmonston.

Sports were always a part of John Edmonston’s life, and there was nothing serious injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident could do to change that. Despite a broken back, arm and face, as well as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that eventually required him to separate from the Navy, John didn’t hesitate to get involved in adaptive sports through the Navy Safe Harbor program.

“It was kind of a highlight for me,” John said. “When they asked me to join I was excited to see what it was all about. And what really made me fall in love with the dynamic of the whole event was the team itself.”

John said he was inspired by warrior athletes with serious injuries—many of them much more severe than his own—excelling at sports and accomplishing more than even their able-bodied counterparts.

“It’s amazing to see these guys go from nothing to more than your average person, more than someone with both their legs, for example,” John said. “It’s amazing to see these guys make something out of nothing.”

John was honored to be competing with them at the Warrior Games as part of the Navy/Coast Guard team, but there was just one problem—he didn’t know which of the seven events to compete in. So, he started training for all of them.  He started with team sports, such as sitting volleyball, because those were the most familiar, and then added to his repertoire from there.

“Whatever I was good at, I participated in it,” John said.

As it turned out, John was good enough at everything to be selected as one of the Navy’s two Ultimate Champion contenders at last year’s Games. He will compete for the title again this year, as well.

Photo of two wounded warriors running in relay event.

In addition to the five events required for the Ultimate Champion competition, John Edmonston will also be participating in team events such as track and swimming relays. Photo courtesy of John C. Edmonston.

Ultimate Champion athletes must compete in each of the following five events: swimming, 50 meter freestyle; shooting, 10 meter prone air rifle; track, 100 meter sprint; field, shot put; and cycling. Ultimate Champion participants compete in their respective disability categories for each of the five events, and men and women compete for the same trophy.

Points are assigned to Ultimate Champion contenders based on how they perform in the finals of each event, for their respective disability categories. The Ultimate Champion winner is the individual at the end of the competition who has earned the most points in the five events.

 John said swimming and track and field are his strongest events and he expects to make it to the medal stand in both, but he’s planning to give his Ultimate Champion competition a run, bike or swim for their money across the board. Aside from the Ultimate Champion events, he’ll also be competing in team events including sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and swimming and track relays.

“I think I can do some damage this year,” John said. “My goal is to be at the top of my game, to not slow down until the competition is over.”