What would it take to get you out of bed before dawn?
Last week, Johnson & Johnson employees boarded a bus before sunrise to cheer on 12 amazing athletes — who also happen to be wounded U.S. military veterans — as the inaugural Triumph Games kicked off in New York City. These competitors are a unique group with a shared story. They all overcame catastrophic injuries to fight their way back to wellness. And despite the obstacles in their way, all are world-class medalist athletes in a variety of sports.
Sgt. Elizabeth Wasil sustained bilateral hip injuries while on assignment in Iraq as a combat medic, then discovered an unrealized gift for competitive swimming and became a member of the US ARMY World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). In 2014, she fell ill before a competition and was placed on life support. Two months later, still in recovery, she won a gold medal swimming internationally in Edmonton Canada.
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Rico Roman earned a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Airborne Parachute Wings and Air Assault Wings during his service. He was wounded by a roadside bomb while serving his third tour in Iraq and had his left leg amputated above the knee. Within a year of his amputation and with the help of a prosthetic limb, Roman completed two bike marathons and rode 150 miles in a day to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Today, he is a gold medal world champion from the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, and competes in hand cycling, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair football.
Johnson & Johnson is proud to be the Official Health and Wellness Sponsor of the Triumph Games because these athletes embody what we believe – that each of us has the power to triumph over the challenges we face, and that powerful advances in health care can help get us there.
The games kicked off the morning of August 25 with a triathlon and obstacle course in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY. This set the stage for three rounds of competition, including a gaming competition and a motorsports challenge spaced over a seven-day period. During the first day of competition, the athletes competed in a bike race, a kayak obstacle course, and a laser rifle competition. After the Triumph Games athletes completed their runs, brave J&J employees had a chance to test their mettle on the obstacle course, with Triumph Games athletes repeating the course alongside them to show their support.
Employees were wowed not only by the athletes’ prowess, but by their attitude:
“I found it incredibly inspiring that [they] have overcome such unimaginable injuries, continue to be fearless and still keep their sense of humor and zest for life,” said Jyotsna Kasturi, a Principal Scientist on the Johnson & Johnson Research and Development IT team.
For others, it illuminated how the athletes’ service to their country had truly altered their life paths: Karol Moss, part of the Johnson & Johnson Global Trade Compliance Worldwide Transportation team, felt enlightened by the conversation she had with Twila Adams. “By sharing her story, she helped me see her as more than the label ‘wounded veteran’ and I feel like I experienced her true self.”
As the Official Health and Wellness Sponsor of the games, Johnson & Johnson helped prepare the athletes in advance of Triumph Games competition at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., an institution with a 30-year track record helping leaders expand their energy and perform at their personal best.
With help from performance coaches, exercise physiologists, and nutritionists, they readied themselves for a new sort of battlefield. “They learned about the power of purpose and what drives them,” said Jim Loehr, Co-Founder of the Institute. “Purpose for these athletes is the impact they can have on others, and the example they can set for others. If they can achieve this after catastrophic injuries, what does that mean for all of us?”
NBC Sports Network will televise a recap of the 7-day competition on October 17, so you can watch highlights from the games and find out which athlete will earn the title of 2015 Triumph Games Champion.
Starting next week, you can join Johnson & Johnson employees in supporting the athletes by sharing your own moments of triumph online using #MyTriumph. Don’t worry: You needn’t move mountains, or complete a triathlon. Simply doing a good deed, making it to the gym, or getting out of the house on time is reason enough to share your accomplishment and cheer on these inspiring athletes.
Learn more about Johnson & Johnson’s support of the Triumph Games and our other programs to support U.S. military veterans on our website.