FORT KNOX, Ky., July 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Army is sending its largest group of athletes and coaches to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Fourteen Soldier-athletes, four coaches and two Army spouses will represent the United States in a variety of sports at the Games.
Among the elite athletes are several Soldiers who competed at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, including Sgt. Glenn Eller and Sgt. Vincent Hancock, who won gold medals and set Olympic records in double trap and men's skeet respectively. Eller and Hancock are Soldiers in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) at Fort Benning, Ga.
The USAMU has gained worldwide respect by winning hundreds of individual and team national titles, including more than 40 world championships and 23 Olympic medals.
"The military has given me the opportunity that I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else outside in the civilian world," Hancock said. "It's allowed me to do what I love, to be a part of an organization much bigger than myself and let me represent my country in ways I never thought possible."
Spc. Justin Lester, a Greco-Roman wrestler headed to his first Olympic Games, said the training from the Army and the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) prepared him for this summer's Olympic Games. The Army WCAP provides Soldier-athletes the support and training to compete and succeed in national and international competitions leading to Olympic and Paralympic Games, while maintaining a professional military career and promoting the U.S. Army to the world.
Since 1995, WCAP Soldiers have won 2,071 medals in national and international competitions.
"If you're going to be the best, you have to be in the best training environment," Lester said. "The Army and WCAP provide that."
Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson became the first active-duty Soldier wounded in combat to be named to the 2012 Paralympic Games. Six months after receiving the Purple Heart from then-President George W. Bush in 2004, Olson became the first athlete with a physical disability assigned to WCAP.
Olson is assigned to USAMU's Paralympic/instructor training group, which includes Wounded Warriors who continue to serve their nation. Olson will compete in two rifle events at the Games.
In an event rich with military history, WCAP Spc. Dennis Bowsher is Team USA's lone competitor in the men's modern pentathlon. The event exhibits the skills of a traditional Soldier: fencing, shooting, horseback riding, swimming and running. One hundred years ago, Gen. George S. Patton competed in the event as a lieutenant at the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games. He finished fifth behind American gold medal winner Jim Thorpe.
Military family involvement includes Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft and wife Sandra, who will compete in rifle and pistol shooting respectively. Sandra serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Jamie Gray, wife of USAMU member Staff Sgt. Henry Gray, will compete in the women's 10-meter air rifle and 50-meter three-position rifle events.
All Soldier-athletes and coaches representing the U.S. Army and Army spouses, including their events and hometowns, participating in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games include:
- Spc. Dennis Bowsher — modern pentathlon (Dallas, Texas)
- Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers — Greco-Roman wrestling (Kings Mountain, N.C.)
- Sgt. Glenn Eller — double trap (Katy, Texas)
- Jamie Gray — women's 10-meter air rifle and 50-meter rifle three-position (Lebanon, Pa.)
- Staff Sgt. Joe Guzman — assistant boxing coach (Eloy, Ariz.)
- Sgt. Vincent Hancock — skeet shooting (Eatonton, Ga.)
- Maj. Dave Johnson — rifle coach (Hampton, Va.)
- Spc. Justin Lester — Greco-Roman wrestling (Akron, Ohio)
- Staff Sgt. Charles Leverette — boxing coach (Brent, Ala.)
- Shon Lewis (Ret. Staff Sgt.) — Greco-Roman wrestling coach (Oakland, Calif.)
- Sgt. Spenser Mango — Greco-Roman wrestling (St. Louis, Mo.)
- Sgt. Michael McPhail — 50-meter prone rifle (Darlington, Wis.)
- Staff Sgt. John Nunn — 50-kilometer race walk (Evansville, Ind.)
- Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Olson — Paralympic rifle R3 and R6 (Spokane, Wash.)
- Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker — three-position rifle (Omaha, Neb.)
- Staff Sgt. Joshua Richmond — double trap shotgun (Hillsgrove, Pa.)
- Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson — 25-meter rapid fire pistol (San Antonio, Texas)
- Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski — 50-meter free pistol, 10-meter air pistol (Saginaw, Mich.)
- Sgt. 1st Class Eric Uptagrafft — 50-meter prone rifle (Phenix City, Ala.)
- Sandra Uptagrafft — women's 10-meter air pistol and 25-meter sport pistol (Phenix City, Ala.)
For more information on Army Olympians, including event schedules and biographies, visit http://www.army.mil/olympics/2012/.
SOURCE U.S. Army