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March 31, 2011
John Martin and
FSGT Tony Benfer does not know
off-hand the name of the Royal
Marine who took his place in the
Allies relay swimming team at
the US Marine Corps' Paralympic Tri-
als -- but he will not forget his smile
in a hurry.
"Just seeing the huge grin on his
face when he was presented with his
gold medal was enough for me to
know I helped another team member
experience that feeling you get when
you win," he says.
It could have easily been FSGT
Benfer up there.
He had already won three gold
medals -- in the 100m freestyle, the
50m freestyle and the 50m backstroke
-- and the Briton had come second in
the 50m freestyle.
"The only chance he had to win
gold was to swim in the 4x50m relay,"
FSGT Benfer said.
So he stepped aside and gave him
that golden memory.
FSGT Benfer was one of a team
of five ADF athletes who returned to
Australia earlier this month after a
barnstorming trip to Canada and the
US.The Australians, who are involved
GOLD: At the Canadian Soldier On competition on
Mt Washington. Over the course of a week, athletes
competed in alpine skiing, sit-ski and snowboarding
events, culminating in a downhill slalom race which
FSGT Benfer won.
GOLD: 50m freestyle at the Wounded Warrior trial
games at Camp Pendleton in California.
GOLD: 100m freestyle at the Wounded Warrior trial
GOLD: 50m backstroke at the Wounded Warrior
SILVER: Wheelchair basketball, losing by just one
point with the final shot of the game. FSGT Benfer
was pretty happy with that, considering he had not
actually sat in a basketball wheelchair until two days
FSGT Benfer missed the track and field events at the
Wounded Warrior games. He was scheduled to run
in the 100m and 200m sprint events but had to pull out with a strained calf
in Joint Health Command's ADF
Paralympic Sports Program, won 12
gold medals, 11 silver and one bronze.
It was a two-stop trip. Phase one
was an invitational ski camp with
the Canadian Soldier On program
on Mount Washington in the Comox
Valley, Canada, where FSGT Benfer
won a gold in the downhill slalom
event. Phase two was the Marines'
Wounded Warrior trial games at Camp
Pendleton in Southern California,
where he won three more gold medals
and a silver.
At the Wounded Warrior games
the Australians competed for the
Allies team, alongside
13 Royal Marines and
two marines from the
American teams Team East,
Team West and the Veterans
in swimming, shooting and
track and field events.
FSGT Benfer is a physi-
cal training instructor at
RAAF Base Wagga.
In 2007, he was struck
by a hit-and-run driver at
Townsville. He lost his
lower right leg and now
has an artificial right elbow
and only four fingers on his
FSGT Benfer said he
was inspired and privileged
to compete against other coalition
soldiers with very severe injuries and
wounds who battle adversity on a
"It was really humbling how
these soldiers, with such injuries and
wounds, are always smiling and never
complaining about their situation --
just getting on with their lives."
One of the competitors he met was
a blind American marine with no legs
and deafness in one ear.
"This guy would smile and
laugh, but look at the challenges he
had on a daily basis. He made me
feel as if my injuries were insignifi-
cant," FSGT Benfer said.
After a break he will soon start
training for the Arafura Games in
Darwin in May.
CDRE Robyn Walker, acting
Commander Joint Health, said
Exercise Wounded Warrior was con-
ducted by Joint Health Command,
in conjunction with Army, as part
of the ADF Paralympic Sports
Program. "Our five participants have
brought great pride to the ADF and
their respective services with their
sporting achievements," she said.
She said the ADF Paralympic
Sports Program, coupled with
Wounded Warrior, highlighted how
serious Defence was about the reha-
bilitation and recovery of its mem-
bers whether they were injured in
accidents or wounded on operations.
CDRE Walker said the ADF
Paralympic Sports Program and
activities such as Wounded Warrior
provided ill and injured ADF person-
nel with the opportunity to challenge
themselves, and to demonstrate that
with courage and commitment they
could achieve anything they wished --
especially in regards to sports.
Sharing the feeling
FSGT TONY BENFER'S TALLY
Navy a taste
of the same
as CPL Jim
Jets find some positives
DESPITE losing both its games
at the Australian Services Rugby
League in Sydney, the Air Force Jets
brought some positives away from
The Jets unearthed some talented
newcomers and were on track for a
mighty upset against Army, which
had won the competition for the pre-
vious seven years.
Game's end must have been a
welcome relief for Army, which
Air Force was dominant in the last
stanza and many spectators believed
that a major upset was on the cards.
Air Force fared worse against
Navy, losing 10-26. The Jets lost four
players to injury and missed at least
four tries with dropped balls and poor
Air Force coach SGT Geoff
Britton said he was proud of his
players for their courageous efforts.
He was pleased with the form of
some newcomers including rugged
front-row LAC Ryan Phelan and
replacement fullback LAC Brent
LAC Steggall showed his class
with electrifying attack and also per-
haps the best try-saving tackle in the
tournament on an Army centre who
was flying down the touchline.
Army's luck ran out when it was
dethroned by Navy 38-36 in the
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