Marine brings back gold in first appearance at Invictus Games
Published 4:52 pm Thursday, April 28, 2022
DeRidder resident and Marine Corp veteran Andrew Holliday returned home with three new gold medals this week following his first appearance in the Invictus Games.
Holliday already had an impressive list of accomplishments before traveling to The Hague in the Netherlands earlier this month. He has been a dominating presence in the track & field competitions in the U.S.’s Warrior Games over the last few years, but he said being invited to compete in the Invictus Games was an incredible moment in his life.
Holliday had first been selected for the games’ USA team in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold for two long years.
“Because the games had been canceled twice, staying prepared became more of a mental challenge and less of a physical one,” Holliday said.
Despite the challenge, Holliday was able to maintain his “stay ready” mentality, and it paid dividends. He won gold in all but one event, and his team won each event it competed in.
“Originally, winning gold and winning each event meant a great deal personally for me, but after a few days it was more important to me that no matter who won, the only thing that mattered to me was seeing Team USA on the podium. I just wanted to see three American flags standing on the podium. That was the best part about the entire experience; seeing the success of the team as a whole,” Holliday said.
This year’s event featured more than 500 military competitors from 20 nations who competed in a series of adaptive sporting events.
The games were founded by Prince Harry, the former Duke of Sussex, after he witnessed the Warrior Games in America in 2013. The games seek to honor the fighting spirit of service members from across the globe who were wounded while serving, a mission that the prince often said was close to his heart following his own service in the British Army.
“The Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve our country,” the Invictus Games foundation page reads.
Holliday claimed gold in the 200 meter dash, the 100 meter dash, and the 100 meter team relay. All surreal moments considering the experiences leading up to his participation in the Warrior Games just five years ago.
A 2014 graduate of Rosepine High School, Holliday first set out to earn a mechanical engineering degree from LSU, but by his second semester he said a moment of self-reflection led him to alter his plans and he enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It was a desire of wanting to challenge myself and really see what I could do with my life that I had not expected before that moment,” Holliday said.
In May 2017, Holliday fell 20 feet from a cliff during a training exercise in Okinawa, Japan. He suffered two cracked ribs, a fractured collarbone and a traumatic brain injury. He also dislocated his shoulder and lost all function in his right hand and arm for the next year.
Holliday said recovering from his injuries was an exceptionally dark time for him as he tackled both the physical and mental aspects of his injuries.
“You understand that it’s going to take some time to get better; but after four, and then six months, it gets harder to deal with,” he said.
His struggle took a turn for the better when he was sent to an inpatient VA facility in Richmond, Va., as part of its STAR program. Within two months, he said he began to see the improvement.
“That program saved me. It changed everything for me, and I can’t say enough great things about it and everyone on the physical therapy team there,” Holliday said.
As part of his rehabilitation program, Holliday began a new workout program that included 14 sports activities, and he excelled in the track and shooting programs. It wasn’t long before he was selected to compete at a regional level within the Wounded Warriors program that then led him to competing nationally.
While the awards and medals are a strong source of pride for himself and his family, Holliday said it’s the camaraderie and friendships he has made during his competitions that he holds most dearly.
“It has been such a great experience to be able to compete against so many great athletes from all over the world, while also creating friendships over the course of the last week that will end up lasting lifetimes,” he said.
During his time in the Netherlands, Holliday said he was proud to be able to meet with Prince Harry and express his appreciation for founding the games.
“Without his support of wounded and recovering service members and adaptive sports, so many of us would be lost still trying to find ways to deal with our injuries. I made it a point to shake his hand and tell him thank you, from all of us,” Holliday said.