August 30, 2016, by David McCauley – The U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) was established to provide soldier-athletes with the opportunity to train and compete on the path toward selection for the U.S. Olympic Team. WCAP sent thirteen athletes and three coaches to Rio for the 2016 Olympics. It’s a unique honor to serve as both soldier and athlete, allowing them to represent their country on two fronts. “They are great ambassadors for the Army. They represent sacrifice, determination, loyalty, commitment — all of our ethos,” said U.S. Army track coach Dan Brown.
Specialist Paul Chelimo was the final U.S. Army soldier-athlete to claim an Olympic medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. On Aug 20, 2016 the 5,000-meter race runner won the Olympic silver after a nearly costly reversal. The American runner initially finished in second place behind British distance runner Mo Farah, but was quickly disqualified. The reasoning behind the decision was that Chelimo had taken a single step partially out of bounds – unfortunately grounds for disqualification.
After U.S. track officials protested the decision, the governing International Association of Athletics Federations reversed the judgment and reinstated Paul Chelimo as the silver medalist. It was determined that that Chelimo’s out-of-bounds step was accidental and had no bearing on his finish time. The soldier-athlete was visibly elated to receive the news. This was the first time since 1964 that an American man had medaled in the 5,000 meter event.
Chelimo commented on his experience with the WCAP in a July interview with NPR, “Actually, my main goal was to represent the United States. Being an Olympian is the best way to represent the United States. That was the best program because I could do my career as a soldier and also focus on my talent.”
On Aug 15, 2016 Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks became the first military member of the U.S. team to medal in Rio. He was awarded a bronze medal for achieving third place in the pole vault. The last time the United States medaled in this event was in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Since 1948 – long before the inception of the WCAP – the U.S. Army provided opportunities, tools, and training for exceptional soldier-athletes to represent their service and country at the highest level of international competition. Another way that servicemembers have access to compete in sports competitions is through the All Army Sports program. Both programs provide equal opportunity for all members of the Army – including, Active Duty, Army Reserve, and National Guard. According to GoArmy.com’s official ‘World Class Athlete’ resource, the eligibility requirements are:
– All participants must be in good military standing
– Enlisted athletes must have completed Basic Combat Training (BCT) and Advanced Individualized Training (AIT).
– Once selected, an athlete must hold a national or international ranking from the governing body of his or her sporting event.
– Athletes must hold a United States Olympic Committee World Class Certification.
If your military service ambitions include standing on the podium with an Olympic medal around your neck, the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program provides you with the opportunity to do exactly that. For more information or to initiate an application, contact the WCAP at (877) 410-3537, or visit www.thearmywcap.com.
About the Author: D.M. McCauley is a former U.S. Navy sailor who worked in Intel. After the service he has dedicated his time to writing and traveling with his significant other.