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Medically retired Soldier encourages other to ‘just try’ adaptive sports

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By SHANNON COLLINS

Whether it’s adding another medal to his collection or meeting his comrades for another friendly competition on the tennis or basketball courts this week, Roosevelt Anderson, a medically retired U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant, said he looked forward to competing at the third Invictus Games in Toronto.

“It’s pretty warm, but I dreamt all year for this and then for it to be in the middle of Toronto with this public crowd, it’s just amazing,” he said. “It’s everything I expected and more. Toronto has been amazing. Prince Harry has been amazing for putting this event on.”

More than 550 wounded, ill and injured service members from 17 nations are competing in 12 sporting events, including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball Monday-Sunday.

Anderson took to the tennis courts again after competing in doubles wheelchair tennis Monday, and joins the rest of the American team for wheelchair basketball later this week.

Anderson injured his back and became a paraplegic after a motorcycle accident in 2012. He said he uses sports for recovery and therapy. At last year’s Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, he took home three gold and two silver medals and said he hopes to add golf to his sports list for next year’s games.

Anderson said the camaraderie among his team members and athletes from other countries has been great.

“It was an honor to serve for the U.S. and with my comrades and our allies,” the former OH-58 Kiowa helicopter mechanic said. “I’ve been with Invictus since London, so I see a lot of the guys that I met four years ago and a lot of new faces.”

He added, “I make a point to talk to them because I remember my first year. You don’t know what to expect; the nerves, you’ve been training all year. You get to the moment and all these people, a lot of these people aren’t used to that, so I make sure I speak to them and let them know that hey, this is fun.”

Anderson said the Canadians have been very welcoming to the American competitors. “They’re so nice and courteous,” he said. “I’ve walked downtown everywhere and asked for directions. Everyone is so willing to help and ask, ‘Can I take pictures with you?’ I feel like I’m some Paralympian. I’m just a Soldier enjoying sports. Toronto has been wonderful.”

Anderson said that anyone who gets the chance should witness the Invictus Games.
“All of these athletes here, the reason they’re competing is because they have a mission and that mission drives them to be better
every day,” he said.

He also encouraged disabled service members who may be considering adaptive sports to give it a try.

“I literally tried everything; even things that were difficult to do but then I found everything I was good at,” Anderson said. “I encourage people to just try things differently. Leave your home;
leave your bubble. Get out of your environment and try something different because you never know what you’re made of.” n