Share Your Story: After a Catastrophic Injury, Adaptive Sports Changed My Life and Career Path

By Peter Park, United States Marine Corps (USMC) veteran and Assistant Head Coach, University of Illinois Track/Road Racing Team

 

After separating from the Marine Corps, I was in a serious snowboarding accident that changed my life. The accident led to me using a wheelchair on a daily basis and introduced me to adaptive sports as part of my recovery process.

Photo of wounded warrior athlete competed in adaptive sports, hand cycling

Peter Park is an injured United States Marine Corps (USMC) veteran and athlete who participated in the 2011 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Today, I compete and coach in wheelchair track and road racing, building on my love for adaptive sports and competition that started during my recovery process.

After meeting with Semper Fi fund, through my adaptive sports coach, my competitive athletics career began at the U.S. Olympic training center where I worked as an intern for 10 months. While there, I was able to train with the best athletes in the world. During my time living and working at the training center, I had an opportunity to compete in the 2011 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. I won every event I competed in on the track. I have also competed in U.S Nationals, Paralympic Trials, international level track series and multiple marathons at a competitive level. While I was never top 10 or able keep up with the best in the world, it kept me motivated to work harder, stay competitive as an athlete and stay active.

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Coach Park, center, celebrating with the gold medal winning U.S. IPC World Championship London Marathon team.

Adaptive sports helped me change my lifestyle and my attitude. Sports and competition helped me to become a positive human being, with a desire to help others who didn’t have an opportunity to participate in any adaptive sports. I am currently training and working as an assistant head coach with University of Illinois Track and Road racing team, which also is the official U.S. Wheelchair racing training center. We have 25 athletes training full-time and most of the U.S. national team members are training with us. I am also a part of the U.S. Paralympic National team coaching staff and recently had an experience to coach at the IPC World Championship London Marathon where the U.S took home the gold medal in all three classifications for the wheelchair racing. Adaptive sports and military organizations have helped me get this far as an athlete and also in my career as a coach. I believe that adaptive sports is one of the best forms of rehabilitation that individuals can experience and all wounded, ill and injured Service members should be encouraged to participate.

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The Office of Warrior Care Policy wants to share your success with the world! If you are a wounded, ill or injured Service member or veteran, caregiver, or family member just e-mail your story to warriorcare@osd.mil for consideration. If your post is selected, we will share your story on the Warrior Care blog for all to see. Tell us about your triumph over adversity, a special moment in your recovery, an adaptive sport that you’ve participated in, an art project that you’re proud of, or any other success that you want to share.