LONDON (NNS) — An aviation boatswain's mate won the U.S. team's first gold medal during track and field competitions Sept. 11 at the Invictus Games in London.
After placing well in the qualifying round, Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Donald Jackson outran his competition in the men's 100-meter sprint (open) with a time of 11.42 seconds. He teammate, retired Navy Lt. John Edmonston, clinched a bronze medal in the same race with a time of 12.33 seconds.
"It feels great to have won the gold medal, but, really, I don't think it's sunk in just yet," said Jackson, who was diagnosed with epiglottal cancer last fall. "Sports have made a big difference in my life. They have given me something to do, instead of just sitting at home on the couch feeling depressed."
Jackson wasn't the only Navy athlete to strike gold. Edmonston won a gold medal in the men's 200-meter sprint (open), and both athletes were part of the U.S. men's 4x100-meter relay team, which captured gold during the final race of the day.
On the field, retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Max Rohn and retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jaime Garza won three gold and one silver medal in discus and shot put competitions.
Additionally, retired Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Redmond Ramos and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Angelo Anderson earned bronze medals in 400-meter sprints. Two active-duty female Sailors, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Maria Gomez-Mannix and Navy Chief Career Counselor Ching Dressel took home bronze medals, as well.
"I'm excited to be at the Invictus Games because it's time for wounded warriors from other nations to meet," said Dressel, who was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome in 2009. "The therapeutic power of sports for wounded warriors — not just combat-wounded service members, but medically wounded, too - is important to recognize and share."
At the end of the day, the U.S. Team led the overall medal count with 37 medals, 12 of which are gold medals. The U.K. Team, which enjoyed the support of a robust crowd of spectators, clinched 16 gold medals - more than any other team.
Before the track and field finals commenced, a drumhead service - a longstanding tradition during which a makeshift altar is constructed by drums — commemorated the 13th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Athletes and audience members looked on as hymnals were sung and prayers communicating a desire for peace were recited.
"The Invictus Games is not really about medals; it's about connecting with seriously wounded, ill and injured service members from other nations," said retired Navy Lt. j.g. Laura Root, who was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy in 2011. "I've met other people here with Muscular Dystrophy — people like me. I have been using all of the other languages I know! It has been amazing to connect with these athletes."
On Sept. 10, the Invictus Games kicked off during an elaborate opening ceremony that was attended by the royal family and included Red Arrow and Apache attack helicopter fly-overs. A video message from U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama was played, and she told the athletes: "You're inspiring to all of us, especially our young people."
Actor Idris Elba read from the poem that inspired the name of the games: "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. The stanzas of the poem — which conclude with the declaration, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul" — also were put to song, and the anthem has been played during each medal ceremony.
Prince Harry announced the launch of the Invictus Games March 6. The Royal Foundation, with the direct oversight of the prince and the Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, are hosting the event, which brings together wounded warriors from 13 nations. The athletes are competing in archery, cycling, powerlifting, rowing, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby.
All of the Navy and Coast Guard athletes participating in the Invictus Games are enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor, the Navy's sole wounded warrior support program. NWW supports more than 3,150 Sailors and Coast Guardsmen.
To learn more about NWW, the Invictus Games and adaptive athletics, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil; call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow NWW on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news from London.
For more news from Commander, Navy Installations Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cni/.