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Wounded warriors needed to compete in 2016 Paralympic Games

Army Sgt. Josh Wold

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The paths of two Washington natives - men who in their separate ways have never given up or refused to be defeated - intersected last February, and together they made history. In 2016 at the Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, they hope to do so again - this time for Olympic gold.

But first they need a team.

Specifically, they need 10 (or more) Joint Base Lewis-McChord wounded warrior Servicemembers to compete in the first ever paracanoe event, which will make its debut at the games.

The journey began with Alan Anderson. What started out as a daydream turned real when he founded the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team (GHCK) in 2002 and became its head coach. He had only two members.

It's also the story of former Army Sgt. Josh Wold, a Ranger who was stationed with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. He lost his right foot in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack while deployed to Iraq in 2007. Two days after surgery, he was walking again.

Wold had never canoed or kayaked before, but three weeks after training with Anderson, he not only won trials, but also participated in the U.S Sprint and Canoe National Championships in Seattle. He later won his event in the Paralympic World Championship exhibition in Poland in August.

"We went up against some big clubs, and we won doing it out of a parking lot," said Anderson, who currently trains 48 athletes ages 9 to 18, four of whom are disabled.

In addition to looking for a new home for GHCK, Anderson was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the U.S. National Olympic Committee to purchase special equipment to train a team for the Paralympics.

"I'm looking for goal-oriented, motivated and driven Servicemembers to join the team," he said. "You don't need experience, just a lot of heart. Since we live close to base, I saw an opportunity to challenge wounded veterans to compete. Why not shoot for the top and put a Soldier on an Olympic podium?"

Paracanoe consists of canoeing and sprint kayaking, and Anderson is looking for wounded veterans in three classifications - single and double-amputees - who can: use a leg, trunk and arms (LTA); trunk and arms (TA); and arms only (A).

"(Paracanoe) motivates me because it puts me on an even playing field with able-bodied athletes," said Wold, who is from Tumwater. "I'm not an amputee; I'm just like everyone else when I compete."

And he is. Wold placed 7th in the "able-bodied" nationals this year.

"I train a lot - seven days a week both in the water and the gym, but schedules are fluid," he said. "I have a chance to create a foundation for a new sport and set the standards high."

Anderson won U.S. Sprint Kayak Coach of the Year two years running, he's on the U.S. Paracanoe Committee for world championships, and he's also one of four members of the U.S. Sprint Coaches Association, which makes the rules for the sport at the national level.

"Soldiers can serve their country again as peace ambassadors and Olympians," he said. "I want Gig Harbor to be number one in the country for Paralympics, and I want to find a home here for a veterans program to do it."

Helping Anderson scout teammates is his top athlete Natalie Griffin, 17.

"I want to demonstrate to (Servicemembers) that they can do it," she said. "Plus, to be part of building a program for veterans, and then to see them meet their highest potential as athletics will be awesome." 

Additional funding and sponsors are also needed for the team. For more information, to donate or participate, contact Missy Hill at (253) 230-3631 or visit

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