Amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries didn’t prevent 120 athletes, including 20 veterans injured while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, from competing in the Desert Challenge Games, hosted by Arizona Disabled Sports (ADS) in Mesa from May 18-23. Now in its 20th year, the three-day competition included track and field events, archery, swimming, and weightlifting. Competitions were held at Red Mountain High School, Shepherd Aquatic Center, and Usery Mountain Park Archery Range, all in Mesa.
Competitors came from across the nation, Canada, and Bermuda, and ranged in age from nine to 80. According to an ADS press release, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) hosted a military camp at Luke Air Force Base from May 17-20, where the individuals were trained in track and field events to prepare for competition at the Desert Challenge Games.
Athletes competing in Mesa were attempting to qualify for international and national events including the National Junior Disability Sports Championships, the U.S. National Championships, and the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
After being evaluated by three officials from France, Corbin Beu, 38, of Phoenix, a paraplegic and longtime coach with ADS, was classified to compete in the 2012 Paralympics in London in two track events, shot put, discus, and javelin. Beu competed in the 1998 Paralympics in Nagano, Japan.
“It’s a new sense of fulfillment,” Beu said. “It gives them [the athletes] the idea that they can be contributing members of society in one way or another.”