Medically retired captain takes gold at Invictus Games track events
ORLANDO, Fla., May 12, 2016 — USA Team captain medically retired Army Capt. Will Reynolds earned multiple medals during the 2016 Invictus Games held this week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World here.
Throughout the week, more than 500 wounded, ill and injured service members from 14 nations have been competing in 10 sporting events as thousands of family members, friends and spectators cheered them on.
Earning Gold, Silver Medals
During cycling, Reynolds earned a silver medal in the time trial in the men’s upright in his disability category and took fifth in the criterium. During track and field, he earned gold medals in the 100-meter and 1,500-meter races and silver medals in the 200-meter and 400-meter events.
Reynolds said he was especially excited about the 100-meter race.
“I was able to beat the Frenchman who beat me in 2014 and actually win the race overall, so there was a lot of excitement,” he said. “For the 200, I went against one of the Brits who had beaten me in 2014. He ran a personal record, and he was about a tenth of a second away from a world record, so he had a good 20 meters on me. I finished second, but I was really happy even being close to an almost-world-record holder.”
Reynolds said the 400-meter was the last race of the day, so he was feeling a little tired.
“The Brit I beat in the 100 came back, and had a great last 150 meters and was able to just pull by me, so I got second in that,” he said. “In the 1,500-meter, it was an all-American field, so we all went out there and said we were going to run easy, but we were running a personal record pace. Two of us ran sub-six minutes, which we’ve never done before in a 1,500. The other one ran a sub-seven minute, which he had never done before. We swept the podium.”
Reynolds said the USA team had representation on the podium after almost every race. “It was a very strong performance day for the team,” he added. “It was pretty unbelievable.”
Reynolds said he is honored to be the U.S. team captain and is proud of his team.
“I’m super proud of the team; they’ve been performing at the highest level. We’ve been holding our own,” he said. “We are neck and neck and are probably going to make it into the finals in most of the team sports coming up.”
Injury and Recovery
Reynolds served in the Army for six years as an infantry officer and rifle platoon leader. In 2004, while performing a dismounted patrol during a reconnaissance mission in southwest Baghdad, he was injured when a remote-detonated improvised explosive devise went off.
He underwent 26 surgeries as the doctors tried to salvage his left leg from November 2004 to December 2006. The doctors eventually amputated his left leg at the knee.
“When his mother first saw him, it was hard to internalize where he would be years later,” said his wife, Cassandra. “At that point, it seemed like he was going to be bed-ridden for an indefinite amount of time, and he needed help with everything; eating, going to the bathroom, everything. The doctors were pretty uncertain in terms of what his ability would be to walk normally, let alone run. To see where he’s come, where he’s started from and where he’s come to now, it’s just been incredible. With the right kind of support and therapy he was able to do all the things he wanted to do, essentially.”
Cassandra said their son, Malachi, who is now 7 years old, had a lot of questions regarding what happened to his daddy’s leg when Reynolds first returned home.
“One day, Malachi was at preschool, and they said, ‘Your daddy only has one leg.’ His response was, ‘Actually, he has five [prosthetics],’ she said with a laugh. “We handled it on an age-appropriate level.”
Reynolds said Malachi was interested in how the different prosthetics worked and seeing the different parts. “He likes to help daddy put it on, so he had to be part of the process,” his wife added. “He would go get the leg for him or charge it.”
Having his family interested in his therapy and recovery process and wanting to get back to his children -- Malachi, Gabrielle, Genevieve and Evangeline -- were the motivating factors to accelerate his recovery, Rerynolds said.
Reynolds said his family has been with him at every surgery and through every part of the recovery process. “So having them here at a more successful and joyful event is great,” he said. “Having family and friends cheering you on gives you that extra push to perform that much better so it’s pretty awesome.”
Cassandra watched him compete in London two years ago and here this week.
“Seeing Will compete on home soil and also as the captain of the team was great,” she said. “The opening ceremony was absolutely moving; it had us teary-eyed. It had us really reflecting back on his whole journey, and it was just really great to see him have success.”
Cassandra said she doesn’t hope for medals, but that “he’s happy and that he just comes out here to do what he came out here to do, which is to captain the team and be a good example for all of us.”
Malachi joked that he’s faster than his dad, and said track and field is his favorite sport. He said, “My dad’s great.” He also said he was looking forward to seeing his dad cross the finish line and to visiting Walt Disney World.
The team captain’s mother, Evelyn, said she was proud of her son.
“I’m so proud that he’s really recovered and put everything behind him, and he’s just moving on,” she said. “He doesn’t consider [himself as] handicapped. I’m very proud. I’m at the brink of tears. They’re happy tears.”
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