COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. --
Fifty Airmen along with nearly 210 other wounded, ill or injured warriors from all branches of the United States military and the British Armed Forces gathered at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here for the opening ceremony of the fourth annual Warrior Games.
The athletes entered proudly into the courtyard, under sunny skies, while hundreds of family members and supporters cheered. The spectators watched as athletes representing each team passed the traditional Olympic torch up to the Warrior Games cauldron. When it was lit, it signaled the official start of Warrior Games 2013.
Capt. Sarah Evans beamed as she carried the torch for the Air Force. She, along with Capt. Mitchell Kieffer, will represent the Air Force in the Ultimate Champion competition where athletes from all the services earn points in five events vying for recognition as the Ultimate Champion of Warrior Games.
Amongst those in attendance at the 11 May ceremony were Britain's Prince Harry, who served in the British Army in Afghanistan, Olympic gold medalists Missy Franklin and Misty May-Treanor, U.S. Senator Mark Udall, and Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During Admiral Winnefeld's remarks he told competitors they were the nation's "best of the best."
On my toughest days, "I just think of you and my day suddenly becomes a very nice day," he said.
"You're here because of your ability to overcome challenges -- great challenges. Your heroism and determination are inspirational," he said. "Compete fiercely, compete fairly and compete safely."
This year marks the largest number of Air Force warriors participating in the games. Airman, active duty and retired, with upper and lower body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, serious illness and post-traumatic stress will compete in seven sporting events and the Chairman's Cup - awarded to the top-performing service branch.
Spectators can enjoy watching athletes compete in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track & field and sitting volleyball.
Whether the athletes win or lose, those who can participate are winners Sen. Udall reminded the spectators at the opening ceremony. "We win by being in your presence," he said. Regardless of the many medical setbacks the athletes have experienced they have come "all the way back and are prepared to compete again at the highest level."
This year's games run through Thursday and will take place at the U.S Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
All competitions are free and open to the public. However, the closing ceremony is a ticketed, invitation only event.
For more information about the games and to see the complete competition schedule of events visit: http://www.teamusa.org/warriorgames/