Each year tens of thousands of American’s train their hearts out and push through any obstacle for the chance to don our red, white and blue while competing at the Olympic Games. In just a few weeks the eyes of our world will be on London, England as 205 nations elite athletes compete. Currently 11 of our US Olympic team members headed to London are part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. The WCAP describes these Olympians as the strongest contingent of athletes and coaches ever.
WCAP provides soldier-athletes the support and training needed to successfully compete in Olympic sports on the national and international levels, including the winter and summer Olympics, Pan American Games, world championships and Conseil International du Sport Militaire’s Military World Games.Since the program inception in 1948, The World Class Athlete Program has sent over 600 soldiers to represent the United States at the summer and winter Olympics as both athletes and coaches. These athletes have collected more than 140 victory medals in various events. Soldier-athletes serve as ambassadors for the Army by promoting values and ability to the world while also acting as recruiters and assisting with Army retention goals. WCAP also features a Paralympic program for wounded warriors and expects to qualify at least one soldier for the London Paralympic Games. Sights are set on qualifying several more for the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
WCAP has several Olympians competing in the Roman-Greco style wrestling as veterans. WCAP wrestling head coach Shon Lewis, a retired staff sergeant who has led the Army to 11 national team titles in Greco-Roman wrestling will lead three soldier athletes to London as the Assistant Coach for Team USA. The US team will include two-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers and Two-time Olympian Sgt. Spenser Mango and will be joined by strong medal contender and first time Olympian Spc. Justin Lester.
Lewis is a former WCAP athlete as a 12-time armed forces champion and a 10-time national team member. He was named Greco-Roman Coach of the Year five times by USA Wrestling, the governing body for wrestling in the United States.
WCAP athletes will be participating in several other events as well. Four-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski, 44, of Saginaw, Mich., will compete in both the 50-meter free pistol and 10-meter air pistol. Two-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, 37, of San Antonio, will compete in the 25-meter rapid-fire pistol event. Two-time Olympian Staff Sgt. John Nunn, 34, of Evansville, Ind., already qualified for the 50-meter race walk and is contemplating an attempt to qualify in the 20-kilometer race walk on June 30. Spc. Dennis Bowsher, 29, of Dallas, will compete in modern pentathlon, a five-sport event that includes fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, cross country and laser pistol shooting all in the same day.
WCAP will also be sending a additional coaches including Four-time Olympian Maj. David Johnson, 48, of Hampton, Va., will coach Team USA’s rifle shooters, Staff Sgt. Charles Leverette, 39, of Brent, Ala., will serve as Team USA’s assistant boxing coach with Staff Sgt. Joe Guzman, 32, of Eloy, Ariz., a three-time armed forces champion, serving as the trainer and help work the corners for Team USA’s boxers. Four-time Olympian Basheer Abdullah, a retired staff sergeant will serve as Team USA’s head boxing coach in London. He also led the U.S. boxing team in the 2004 Athens Games and served s a technical advisor for Team USA at the Olympics in 2000 and 2008.
With this much experience and passion the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program will be a force to reckon with. There are several other WCAP soldiers vying for Olympic berths at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team trials.