COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- “I don’t know what I’d do without my family. They’ve really been supportive of everything I do,” the 10-K hand-cycling racer said shortly after winning yesterday.
And in turn, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ronnie Jimenez, a wounded warrior and athlete at the 2013 Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy here, made his wife and mother proud and happy with his win. They said as much, cheering him on from the sidelines.
His time was 21:53, earning him the gold medal and motivating his Marine team.
Taking the silver was Anthony Robinson from the Army team at 22.16, and the bronze went to Justin Gaertner, a Marine from the Special Operations team.
“This is the best Mother’s Day gift ever,” said his wife, Patrice, shortly after he crossed the finish line to the cheers of supporters. She added that their three children are equally excited with his win.
Jimenez suffered a spinal cord injury from a training accident and has post-traumatic stress disorder following multiple deployments to Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. The 14-year Marine veteran is currently in a Wounded Warrior Regiment at Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., and is in the process of transitioning out of the Corps.
Jimenez said he has always loved sports and used to run ultra-distance events. Following his spinal cord injury, he added, doctors told him he’d never run again.
But he said a buddy, a Paralympian, encouraged him, with these words that inspired him to take on a new challenge: “You can do the same distance with your arms that you once did with your legs.”
“And so I’m here,” he said, adding that the Marine Corps has been very supportive of his recovery efforts.
His command lets him train in the hills of nearby Joshua Tree National Park. He also receives professional coaching help throughout the year. When he retires from the Corps, Jimenez said, he wants to cycle professionally and perhaps make the Paralympic team.
He said he will maintain contact with his fellow athletes, who are just like family, and that he will always remember the men and women he served with in the Corps.
Mary Ann, his mother, came to see him from Arizona and said her son makes her proud not only on Mother’s Day, but every day.
As she wiped away tears of joy, she added: “He’s just an awesome person. He’ll give the shirt off his back to you if you need something. I’m also proud of all the Marines. They’re all great.