2014 Warrior Games

Army Wheelchair Racer 1st. Lt. Kelly Elmlinger all about Hard Work, Sweat as she Competes against Men at Warrior Games

October 3, 2014

By Anna Eisenberg,
WCT Communications Division

U.S. Army First Lieutenant. Kelly Elmlinger, Warrior Transition Battalion Fort Sam Houston, Texas, a member of the Army team, celebrates after finishing the woman's 100 open event for the 2014 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Oct. 2, 2014. More than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members and Veterans participated in the 2014 Warrior Games, an annual event featuring Paralympic-style competitions.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Stalker

Colorado Springs, Colorado – Cupped in the rough hands of the Rocky Mountains, the track at Gerry Barry Stadium opened up to a cloudless sky on October 2, 2014. A light chill clinging to the athletes as they lined their racing wheelchairs up at the starting line, the 100 meter dash was about to begin.

First Lieutenant Kelly Elmlinger, from the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, seemed perfectly in place as she lined up with her fellow racers at the starting line--athletes representing the Marine Corps, Special Operations Command and the Navy/Coast Guard. The lone Army athlete, one other aspect set Elmlinger apart: she was the only female racer.

“I’m here to compete,” Elmlinger said as she lay on her back stretching before her race. “I watched my dad work hard. Whatever you do, you work hard at it.” As she rotated her arms to loosen up her shoulders, she added, “just like this race. Regardless of whether it’s males or females that are out there, you got to work hard.”

Rodney Carson, the Army’s head coach for track, watched from the side of the track as Elmlinger worked her way into her racing wheelchair. “We’re expecting the best out of her today,” Carson said. “She’s a great competitor. It’s all hard work and sweat. She’s put in the hard work and the sweat.”

Carson, who has worked with the Army’s track team for two years, feels that “it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of Warrior Games.” As for working with the Army athletes, Carson said, “they’re hard-wired to never stop. Their attitude—they come with such a positive attitude.”

The starting gun fired and the racers exploded onto the track. Elmlinger and two Marines led the pack.

“Go Kelly!” her supporters screamed. Among them was Elmlinger’s young daughter. “She knows things have changed,” Elmlinger said before her race began. “At the same time, I am able to show her that just because something bad or traumatic happens doesn’t mean you have to give up.”

A few minutes after the race, Elmlinger warmed up for her next event on the track. “You got second!” Carson yelled out to her when he heard the news. Elmlinger smiled at him as she rolled past, not stopping for a second. She had work to do. Once again the only woman, once again the only Army athlete, once again only one thing on her mind: “you got to work hard.”