Invictus Games Cyclist Draws Motivation From Family
By Shannon Collins
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
ORLANDO, Fla., May 12, 2016 For medically retired Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ronnie Jeffrey Jimenez, competing in the hand cycle H4 disability category time trial and criterium cycling competition was more about finishing than medaling at the 2016 Invictus Games this week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World here.
More than 500 wounded, ill and injured service members from 14 nations are competing in 10 sporting events, cheered on by family members, friends and other spectators.
Jimenez was accompanied by his wife, Patrice Jimenez; mom, Mary Ann Jimenez; and father, Ronnie Gomez Jimenez, who all wore homemade, red Team Jimenez shirts with photos of Ronnie riding his hand cycle. He had a lung biopsy in January, but as soon as the doctors said he could go back to training, he was back in the gym and back on the bike, he said.
Jimenez suffered spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injuries during a deployment to a combat zone. It took him years before he admitted to having post-traumatic stress and back issues, he said. His family said that once he did, his smile returned.
For nine years, I wouldnt admit I had any problems and wouldnt talk about it, Jimenez said. I didnt want anybody to know that I was dealing with certain things and couldnt talk about them. Id just start crying. I finally came to the reality that with dealing with PTSD -- its not an anchor. I went through dark times. Ive gone through a lot of treatment, and Im still going through treatment, but its nice just being able to smile. The doctors remind me that my smile is contagious.
I love when I hear people tell him, I love your smile or I love that smile, Patrice said. I love hearing people say that.
Jimenez said the race was tough -- faster than he thought it was going to be, but fun. I looked at my odometer, and it said I did nine miles; it didnt feel like nine miles, he said. When we first started, it was pretty nice, but then the street started heating up, and it started getting a little unbearable. It started getting hot, and I cant regulate my body temperature.
Jimenez said hes enjoyed the camaraderie at the Invictus Games. Its been pretty awesome, he said. Despite where youre from or the language, everybody knows everybody. Ive been talking to a lot of these different guys -- especially the guys from Jordan. We give each other the thumbs-up, and everythings fine.
Adaptive sporting events are vital to the recovery of disabled veterans, Jimenez said. When I first got injured, I didnt know where I was. I lost my self-identity, he said. I didnt know what direction to go in. It wasnt until a buddy of mine brought a hand cycle to the hospital and said, Look, the same thing you did with your legs, you can do with your arms, and it put a smile on my face, and here I am now.
Having been through so many things -- PTSD, the surgeries, the hospitalizations-- adaptive sports and his family have kept the smile on his face, Jimenez said. I wouldnt be able to do a lot of things without them, he said of his family. Theyve been a big part of my recovery.
His mother said shes very proud of him. With all his injuries and stuff going on with him, he still came out here and crossed that finish line, thats all I care about, she said. Hes just so happy, and it makes us happy. The old Ronnie I knew is coming back.
Patrice Jimenez said that when her husband is on his bike, it takes him away -- its his happy place, and when hes with athletes from the other countries, its like theres this brotherhood of athletes sharing common injuries and a common hobby. She also said she also enjoyed Britains Prince Harry and former President George W. Bush highlighting the importance of invisible wounds such as PTSD in a symposium earlier in the week.
Its a serious injury my husband suffers from, and it really knocked him down for a long time, she said. He hid from it for years. He also highlighted that you shouldnt be ashamed. That was beautiful, too.
She wouldnt be who she is without her husband, she added. We make each other stronger, she said. We balance each other out.
Jimenez encourages other disabled veterans to give adaptive sports a chance. You can do anything your heart desires -- anything, he said. I wanted to do so many things for so long, but I was afraid to, or just didnt want to. Now, I couldnt be any happier.
Jimenez said he also wants people not to give up. Despite your injury, disability, sickness, whatever you have, you can still be whole again, he said.
2016 Invictus Games [ http://invictusgames2016.org/?source=GovDelivery ]
Special Report: 2016 Invictus Games [ http://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0516_invictus-games?source=GovDelivery ]
Special Report: Warrior Care [ http://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/1015_warriorcare?source=GovDelivery ]