I met Steve Simmons around January 2014. I did a story about how the now-retired naval officer lost the use of his legs due to debilitating muscle failure. This came months after Steve served a humanitarian effort aboard the USS Ronald Reagan after the nuclear reactor meltdown at Fukushima. Steve went from a strong, fit, P90X-workout-maniac to a man confined to a wheelchair. When we met, Steve and his wife, Summer, confided they were worried his condition would get worse, and soon, he’d be gone.
In January 2015, Steve’s life changed. He started getting involved in competitive wheelchair racing. He went to his very first camp with Navy Wounded Warrior/Safe Harbor. A month later, he completed his first 5k race in Jacksonville, Florida.
The reason why has to do with a good woman. I’ll get to that in a moment.
You’ve probably heard of the Invictus Games. It’s Prince Harry’s passion project. For 5 days, wounded warriors compete in athletic events, including basketball, volleyball and track.
On Tuesday, May 10th, Steve competed in the 1500m track race for the U.S. He had just one competitor, an Aussie named Mark Urqhart. Steve and Mark decided they would cross the finish line at the same time, because there would be only one medal handed out, and they would share it. But, when the finish line started creeping up, Steve was exhausted. Mark decided to push Steve across the finish line, so he could take home the gold. The clip went viral, and Prince Harry even mentioned it at the closing ceremony.
THIS is sportsmanship. Watch it here.
If you ever doubt how important these races and competitions can be, listen to Steve: “Getting involved in adaptive sports as a whole has saved my life. At the end of 2014, I was in a very bad place; it was destroying me and destroying my family relationships. Summer gave me the choice to get busy living or get busy dying but I had to chose one. About a month later, I received an email from Navy Wounded Warrior/Safe Harbor inviting me to an adaptive sport camp in January 2015. After attending the January camp, followed by another camp in February, I was hooked. Summer and I then attended the Navy Team trials in March 2015 in which I made the team and competed at the 2015 DoD Warrior Games. Throughout 2015, I continued to compete completing both the St. George and Marine Corps Marathons in October 2015. My main focus had become adaptive sports; it had become the one thing that allowed me to have a sense of purpose once again. When you leave the military, you feel like the bond or brotherhood is gone or lost forever; finding adaptive sports, allows you to feel that bond once more.”
Steve says he takes one day at a time. He has been having more physical issues. For example, his hands are having trouble holding onto things. Even so, Steve says, “I will not allow that to affect me or impact my goals. I will continue to compete and train until I no longer can. I have no idea when that day will be, but until then, I will be on the road, track, archery range or basketball courts doing what I love!!!”
And we will be cheering you on. Thanks for the inspiration, Steve.