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May 12, 2013 11:45 PM by Tony Spehar - tspehar@koaa.com

Athletes hopeful Prince Harry's visit will raise awareness of the Warrior Games and veteran's issues

The 2013 Warrior Games continued on Sunday with Great Britain's Prince Harry wrapping up his visit to Colorado Springs while the fierce competition continued.

Cycling, wheelchair basketball and sitting volley ball were the events of the day.

In one of the first games in the wheelchair basketball tournament the Navy/Coast Guard team faced off against Marines. On the Navy team was retired Master-at-Arms Steve Hancock, 24, of Pueblo. He was with the team at the games in 2012 but had broken his arm so he couldn't compete, he said the feeling of finally being able to compete was almost indescribable.

"It feels really great, after I was injured they helped me get out stay active," Hancock said. "The team is like my family."

Hancock severed his spine and suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling five-stories while repelling off a building in Bahrain in 2010. He spent two-years in the hospital and, after rehabilitation, is a fierce competitor in wheelchair basketball and in field events.

"Don't give up, get in your chair, you know be active, there's tons of stuff you can do with a spinal cord injury," Hancock described. "You just have to get out there and want to do it and want to better your life."

Almost as intense as the play between the Marine and Navy/Coast Guard teams was the cheering of the fans. Teresa Pennington's husband works with the team and she spent most of the game on her feet cheering them on.

"I want them to know that we're supporting them and that we love them," Pennington explained. "When you get personal with some of these guys it's almost like they are family and you just want to see them succeed."

It's not easy to reach the level of athleticism shown by the athletes participating in the games after suffering a traumatic injury or illness. But, with help and determination it's possible. That's why so many of the athletes and fans were supportive of the weekend visit by Prince Harry, a captain in the British military and Afghanistan veteran, because of the international attention it attracted to the games and resources available to veterans.

"There were people out there that were in the Navy that were injured that don't necessarily know about us," explained Steve Hancock. "They can join the team and just participate."

Service members from the US military were also happy to welcome competitors from the British military, who are in full competition for the first time this year.

"I personally like the British, they're a lot of fun," Hancock said. "Being able to work with a different country who was out there fighting the war with us, it's a great feeling."

Though Hancock's Navy/Coast Guard team lost to the Marines he said, despite the high level of competitiveness, the games are more about sharing sports with men and women who understand each other's struggles so much.

"If we need somebody to talk to or somebody to cheer up our day we just go to each other," he said.

The Warrior Games events continue until Thursday of this week.

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