ESPN2 Gets “Up Close and Personal” with Competitors at Invictus Games 2016 Orlando Nightly Sports Science Features part of ESPN2’s Coverage


ESPN2 Gets “Up Close and Personal” with Competitors at Invictus Games 2016 Orlando Nightly Sports Science Features part of ESPN2’s Coverage

ESPN2’s nightly prime-time shows from Invictus Games Orlando 2016 – Monday, May 9 through Wednesday, May 11, at 7 p.m. ET each night) will include “Up Close and Personal” features on several of the competitors, providing viewers insight into the lives and challenges of these courageous veterans. Bob Woodruff, seriously injured by a roadside bomb that struck his vehicle while he was reporting in Iraq for ABC News in December 2005, will voice the features.

In addition, John Brenkus, host of ESPN Sport Science, will look at competitors’ performances from a scientific viewpoint each night.

ESPN2’s coverage will begin Sunday, May 8, at 8 p.m. ET with the two-hour Opening Ceremony and culminate Thursday, May 12, with the Closing Ceremony.  ESPN3 will provide approximately 40 hours of live event coverage.  All events will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

The “Up Close and Personals” were produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern.

ESPN2 “Up Close and Personal” lineup:

Monday, May 9

Paul Warren/ Australia / Amputated Leg/ Rowing/ Australian Defense Force
In 2007, Paul Warren enlisted as a soldier in the ADF; he was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2009 and one month later an IED exploded, blowing him into the air. His friend Private Ben Ranaudo was killed. Warren’s life was saved by another soldier in the company who got him to a helicopter within 16 minutes for surgery in Australia. His girlfriend stood by him through it all and now they are married with two children. Warren found his way back from the injury through adaptive sport, which he has said was huge for him because he’d always been an athlete.

Israel Del Toro / U.S. / Severe Burns and Missing Fingers / Powerlifting / Air Force
While in Afghanistan in 2005, Israel Del Toro’s Humvee exploded when it rolled over a buried pressure-plate mine. The explosion left him with third-degree burns over 80% of his body and severed most of his fingers. He was given a 15 percent chance of survival. He surprised everyone and was walking again soon.  Wanting to ensure his son grew up with a father gave Del Toro, who was awarded the Purple Heart in 2010, incentive to fight even though he came close to death three times after being burned.


Tuesday, May 10

Guladi Todua / Georgia / Amputated Leg / Sitting Volleyball / Georgia Army
As a result of an explosion from a cluster bomb during the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, Guladi Todua was taken to a military hospital overwhelmed with casualties.  He was left among those dead or dying due to his own tenuous hold on life. A woman looking for her own loved ones noticed he was breathing, so Todua was rushed into surgery and his left leg was amputated. After the surgery, Todua suffered gangrene and had to fight to recover. For Todua, the Invictus Games are “the motivation to boost up a fighting spirit.”

William Reynolds / U.S. / Amputated Leg / Track / U.S. Team Captain
Reynolds, a retired U.S. Army captain, lost his left leg due to the explosion of an IED during combat in Baghdad. He turned to adaptive reconditioning as a way to cope. Following his two years of rehabilitation and medical retirement from the Army in 2007, Reynolds went back to school. In 2010, he earned a Masters of Business Administration and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Rochester, New York. He is currently a senior consultant with Deloitte. He won two bronze medals in track and two bronze medals in cycling during the 2014 Invictus Games.

Wednesday, May 11

Kirstie Ennis / U.S. / Amputated Leg / Swimming / Marine Corps (not competing)
On her last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2012, Ennis’s helicopter went down. She received a variety of serious injuries including damage to her cervical and lumbar spine, hearing impairment, bilateral shoulder trauma, traumatic brain injury, and left foot limb salvage. She had a further amputation this winter, and complications have forced her to pull out of the Games. She remains very involved, however. “At the end of the day, this doesn’t define me,” she said of the amputation.

JJ Chalmers & Louis Nethercott / UK / Missing Fingers & PTSD / Exhibition Wheelchair Rugby
Chalmers was gravely injured after an IED attack and lost multiple fingers and the function of his arms. He still undergoes surgeries and is recovering while working to become a sports commentator. Nethercott was with Chalmers at the time of the attack and is the person Chalmers says saved his life. Nethercott was not physically injured but has since suffered from severe PTSD. The two friends have saved each other in different ways.

ESPN2 Sports Science Lineup

 Monday, May 9

Daniel Crane / U.S./  Paralyzed Right Forearm and Hand / Archery / Air Force
In 2012, Crane was shot by an anti-military local while stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The blast impacted Crane’s right arm striking his brachial artery and severely damaging his bones, nerves and muscles. His current prognosis is complete nerve damage paralyzing him from the right forearm down to his hand. John Brenkus will focus on Crane’s unique ability to shoot an arrow with his teeth, describing the physics involved in his successful technique. 

Tuesday, May 10

August O’Niell / U.S. / Amputated Leg / Swimming & Seated Volleyball / Air Force
While on a mission to rescue three Marines in Afghanistan, O’Niell’s helicopter came under hostile fire. He was shot in his left knee and it shattered before the bullet proceeded to damage his right calf. O’Niell had an above-the-knee amputation because it was “time to move on with my life” and he felt, based on what his doctors told him, that amputation offered the best route to that end. Brenkus will explore how O’Niell’s amputated leg affects his swimming technique while providing an analysis of all the forces involved. 

Wednesday, May 11

Jason Reyes / U.S. / Spinal Cord Injury / Wheelchair Basketball / Navy
As a result of a motorcycle accident, Jason Reyes suffered a spinal cord injury and memory loss.  Two years after his injury, Reyes began competing in WCMX (Wheelchair Motorcross) where he performs stunts and tricks at skate parks. In 2015, he placed fourth overall in the WCMX World Championships. He is currently the eighth person in the world to complete a backflip in a wheelchair.

For more information on the 2016 Invictus Games, including tickets, volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit


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Belen Michelis

Belen Michelis is a senior publicist focusing on ESPN Corporate Citizenship, Spelling Bee, Invictus Games, Warrior Games, ESPN local radio (98.7FM NY, ESPNLA 710, ESPN Chicago 1000), Misc. Sports and the WNBA. Prior to joining the ESPN Communications team, Michelis worked in Ad Sales for ESPN Deportes and International from 2010-2014. Michelis graduated from Boston College in 2010.
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