Air Force Featured Stories

Guardsman sprints to multiple medals at Invictus Games

  • Published
  • By Shannon Collins
  • DOD News, Defense Media Activity
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, the only Air National Guardsman on the American team, earned a silver medal in the 4x100 relay and bronze medals in the 100- and 200-meter races during this year’s Invictus Games at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex in Orlando.

The chaplain assistant from Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing said it was an honor to represent his military service branch.

“It’s a huge honor for me to represent my Guard family. 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 Prince Harry for coming up with the Invictus Games. “I look up to Prince Harry. He’s such an honorable man to envision these games and call to attention the work of our wounded and disabled warriors,” he said.

Injury and recovery

Connelly is a below-knee amputee due to a motorcycle accident. He said his motivation is to help others, because adaptive sports helped 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.”

“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.

Capt. Joseph Winter, the State Partnership Program director with the Maryland National Guard, said Connelly is an inspiration to him and his fellow guardsmen.

“His drive and determination is a lesson to all of us who are part of this organization,” he said. “We have and always will support him as he continues to compete at the highest levels.”

The competition

Connelly said not knowing how the competitors outside the U.S. will race can be a challenge, and he wished he had a better jump out of the blocks.

“For the 100, I had a shaky start. 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,” he said.

Connelly said he felt better with the 200-meter dash. “I knew I had to execute the race perfectly; going into the event I knew I had to run hard,” he said.

Family

Connelly credited 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.”
His father, John Loucas, said he is proud of his son.

“You have no idea how proud I am; I am literally over the moon right now,” he said after watching his son receive 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.”