Colonel Daniel Dudek of Headquarters Support Company, I Corps on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was one of more than 550 competitors representing 17 nations at the 2017 Invictus Games Sept. 23 to Saturday in Toronto — his second appearance in the adaptive sports competition started by Prince Henry of Wales in 2014 for the world’s wounded service members and veterans.
Dudek left Toronto with a bronze medal after finishing third in the men’s 1,500-meter wheelchair racing final Sept. 24 in his division with a time of 5 minutes and 4.11 seconds. It was Dudek’s first medal at the Invictus Games; although, he participated in the games in 2014 in London.
Dudek said he struggled in some of the shorter distances because he had spent his recent training time working towards doing triathlons and marathons.
“I was having trouble with the starts, and the other guys were just really fast off the starting blocks,” Dudek said. “With four laps, I was able to do better because I had been working on that.”
Dudek was certainly close in three other athletics events in his division. He finished fourth in both the men’s 200-meter race (39.58 seconds) and the men’s 400-meter final (1:22.15). Dudek also had a fifth-place finish in the men’s 100-meter final with a time of 21.95 seconds.
His week continued Sept. 26 in his division with an eighth place finish in the men’s handcycling time trial final (13:06). He had a better performance the next day with a fourth-place finish in the men’s handcycling criterium final with a final time of 31:48; nearly two minutes behind U.S. teammate Brant Ireland (29:50) for the bronze medal.
Although he didn’t finish at the medal podium in those events, Dudek said he reached speeds he hadn’t hit before thanks to drafting and pulling with other handcyclists.
“When I train, I usually go 14 mph,” Dudek said. “At Invictus, I averaged 16 mph. I actually got up to 30 mph at a couple of points in the race.”
The qualifying heats for swimming took place Sept. 28. It’s a sport Dudek has done well with at previous Warrior Games; however, he was unable to advance to the final round in each of his four races.
Dudek’s best swimming result in his division came in the men’s 100-meter freestyle heat: an 11th place finish with a time of 1:20.93. Then there was a 12th place finish in the men’s ISC 50-meter backstroke with a time of 46.94 seconds.
His stint in the 2017 Invictus Games ended with a 15th place finish in the men’s 50-meter breaststroke (53.79 seconds) and a 16th place finish the men’s 50-meter freestyle (36.16 seconds).
While medals are always a nice reward for any athlete, Dudek said he felt the entire experience of going to the Invictus Games was rewarding enough. From the athletes offering advice and tips on techniques, to the city’s sports bars showing their support and interest, Dudek said it was great to feel the sense of complete camaraderie.
“(Invictus) is about showcasing adaptive sports, and it’s about celebrating some of the victories people have over their injuries,” Dudek said. “It’s celebrating resiliency as a community.”
Dudek said he hopes anyone currently within the JBLM Warrior Transition Battalion will do what they can to qualify for the Warrior Games in 2018 for a chance to qualify for the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney.
Two appearances at Invictus will be enough for Dudek, but the inspiration to improve remains. He’s hoping to train for the Seattle to Portland bicycle rideand swimming across Lake Washington.
“It’s being better, overcoming and getting faster,” Dudek said. “(I’m) getting to be out in the Northwest — deeper than I’ve been in the past.”