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Woman who lost leg takes the gold

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Former U.S. Army Sgt. Ana Manciaz, left, of Los Lunas, celebrates a gold medal for track during the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games held June 15-21 at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. At right is former Marine Lance Cpl. Sarah Rudder. (Source: Pfc. Stefan English/U.S. Army)

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Ana Manciaz, a former Army sergeant from Los Lunas who lost the lower half of her right leg in a motorcycle crash in 2014, collected a stack of medals at last month’s 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, including four golds, five silvers and one bronze.

According to the DoD Warrior Games website, warriorgames.dodlive.mil, Manciaz took first place in three women’s track and field events – the 400-meter dash, 800-meter run and 1,500-meter run, and in the women’s 200-yard freestyle relay in swimming.

“It was an awesome time,” Manciaz, 36, said by phone from her home in San Antonio, Texas.

The Warrior Games, held June 15-21 at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Approximately 250 athletes participated in eight sporting events, representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom Armed Forces.

Manciaz qualified for the games by winning three silver medals at the 2016 Army Trials held in March at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Now, she’s training for the 2016 USA Paratriathlon National Championships, slated for Aug. 14 in Santa Cruz, Calif.

“Triathlon is my main sport now,” she said.

One thing she said she’s learned is that being good at running, cycling and swimming individually doesn’t necessarily mean you can be good at triathlon.

“It really doesn’t translate as well as I thought it would,” she said, so she’s having to incorporate new training techniques to compensate, such as increasing the intensity of her sprinting.

The August event, she said, is “a development meet, so everyone who is looking to make a spot on the (pre-Paralympic Games) team will compete to see how they stack up against the competition.”

“The level of competition that we’re used to won’t be as high because some of the people we usually compete against are going to Rio de Janeiro,” for events associated with the 2016 Summer Olympics. “But it will definitely be challenging, and it’s on a beautiful course.”

She said each competition becomes somewhat of a family reunion because many of the same people show up.

“We’re all prior service, and we’re all athletes, so it’s an awesome experience,” she said.

She also looks forward to meeting new paratriathletes.

Manciaz first got into competitive sports when she joined the Los Lunas High School swim team – to learn how to swim. A decade after finishing a five-year hitch in the Army, a driver ran a red light and struck Manciaz while she was on her motorcycle in San Antonio, leading to the amputation of her right leg below the knee. While undergoing rehab at Brooke Army Medical Center, she was introduced to adaptive athletics and began training for competition.

If she does well at the paratriathlon nationals, she could eventually find herself training for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

In September, she plans to join a group of para-athletes for a trek across Nepal, where they will visit earthquake victims who have lost limbs and encourage them to overcome their injuries.

“It’s a diplomatic effort to inform the victims, the government and the medical community of the importance of prosthetics,” she said. “And as they rebuild infrastructure, to make it accessible to everyone.”

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