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Warrior Olympians: 16 military athletes vie for glory in London

Jul. 25, 2012 - 02:40PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 25, 2012 - 02:40PM  |  
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Two centuries ago, British troops fought their way into the U.S. and burned the Capitol in the War of 1812. Now, a contingent of U.S. troops is bound for Britain looking to set a few fires of its own.

As the world's eyes turn to London with athletes from 204 countries mustering there for the London 2012 Olympic Games, Team USA will field a platoon of military competitors all looking to forge silver and gold in the heat of competition.

The warrior-athletes will compete in some of the games' oldest and, perhaps not surprisingly, most martial of events — combat sports including Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, fencing and shooting — as well as track and field.

The Army dominates this contingent. One soldier will take the field 100 years after the Games' first modern pentathlon competition in Stockholm in 1912, when a young cavalry officer named George Patton was among the competitors.

Patton came in fifth in his five-sport discipline, taking second in shooting, the only competitor firing a Colt pistol (no word on whether it was ivory-handled). But bad strategy — or foolish pride — in the 4K run thwarted any hope the future general had for a medal.

"It was only by the employment of an incredible degree of energy that he managed to stagger past the tape," according to the 1912 Summer Games official report.

Of the 16 military athletes competing this year, 10 are veterans of sport's biggest battle for athletic glory. As much as the Olympics can be compared to combat, some will mark their fourth tour downrange.

Only two have previously earned a spot on the winners' podium, and they have vowed to defend their titles. Those who fell short last time are hungry for redemption. Those on their first deployments are eager to prove their mettle.

While some are considered long shots, others are serious contenders. All say they will leave every ounce of themselves on the field of competition.

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