ORLANDO, Fla., May 16, 2016 – Air Force Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a Maryland Air National Guard member with the 175th Wing, earned a silver medal in the 4-by-100 relay and bronze medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter races at the 2016 Invictus Games at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World here.
Connelly, a chaplain’s assistant and the only Air National Guard member on the American team, said it was an honor to represent his military service branch.
“I know that competing helps raise awareness that my fellow brothers and sisters have risked and continue to risk their lives for our nation,” he said. “It’s an honor to support and represent our nation, the Air National Guard and the United States Air Force.”
Connelly also thanked Britain’s Prince Harry for originating the Invictus Games. “I look up to Prince Harry,” he said. “He’s such an honorable man to envision these games and call to attention the work of our wounded and disabled warriors.”
Injury and Recovery
Connelly is a below-the-knee amputee as the result of a motorcycle accident. He said his motivation is to help others, especially because adaptive sports have helped to motivate him.
“They’ve provided me an outlet to get motivated to be a better person,” he said. “It was easy to be unmotivated and mad at everyone and everything after losing my leg. Events like this help put it in perspective for me.”
He said the jerseys at the Invictus Games also provide that perspective.
“They say, ‘I am’ as well as, ‘USA,'” Connelly said, referring to the I, A and M in Invictus Games being in a different color on the jerseys to convey that message.
“We are all so proud to wear USA on our chests – it’s our common bond – but to be here and have ‘I AM’ on our uniform puts it in perspective. We are all one group supporting each other,” he said.
Air Force Capt. Joseph Winter, State Partnership Program director with the Maryland Air National Guard, said Connelly is an inspiration to him and his fellow Airmen.
“His drive and determination are a lesson to all of us who are part of this organization,” Winter said. “We have and always will support him as he continues to compete at the highest levels.”
Connelly said not knowing how the competitors from outside the United States would race was a challenge, and that he wished he’d had a better jump out of the blocks.
“For the 100, I had a shaky start,” he said. “I knew at least three of the competitors would be close, so I knew I had to give it my all. The first- and second-place opponents were really tough. They are both great athletes.”
Connelly said he felt better with the 200-meter race. “I knew I had to execute the race perfectly; going into the event I knew I had to run hard,” he said.
Connelly credits his family and friends for his success in medaling and for his recovery.
“The people who came to support me mean a lot to me. Not just my family, but also my friends,” he said. “They never gave up on me, and I will always compete well, knowing I have amazing support around me.”
Connelly’s father, John Loucas, said he’s proud of his son.
“You have no idea how proud I am; I am literally over the moon right now,” Loucas said, after seeing his son receive his two bronze medals. “This is an incredible honor. It’s definitely been a long road. We’re just so incredibly proud of him and humbled by all the folks who are here. It’s incredible how far they’ve all come.”
The Games ended May 12.