By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
Former U.S. Army Sgt. Noah Galloway, a Birmingham native, will serve as an honorary co-chairman for the The World Games 2022. The appointment was announced during a ceremony at the Lakeshore Foundation on June 3.
As an honorary chairman, Galloway, who lost the majority of his left arm and left leg during an IED attack while serving in Iraq, made a promise to use his voice and his platforms to encourage those who are different.
“For The World Games 2022, we wanted to identify a handful of Alabamians, folks to represent based on what they have achieved in their lives,” said The World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers. It’s an effort to celebrate the state as it becomes the stage for an international audience.
Sellers added that Galloway fits the bill not only due to his heroic military service, but because of how he has lived his life since his time serving in the Iraqi War.
“One thing that people may not know about my story is when I was injured, (Lakeshore Foundation) was the first place I came to,” Galloway said.
He noted that it was the foundation’s staff, including President and CEO Jeff Underwood, who attended the ceremony, who motivated him to push himself in recovery.
He has participated in fitness competitions throughout the country and become a motivational speaker. He was featured on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine in 2014, earning the title “The Ultimate Guy.” In addition, he placed third on Season 20 of “Dancing with the Stars” and led his team to victory on Season 1 of Fox’s “American Grit.”
In addition, Galloway established the “No Excuses Charitable Fund” to raise money and awareness for organizations that promote fitness, wellness and healthy habits.
“I promise to be a spokesman for adaptive sports, and I promise to represent this team with the highest form of gratitude and sportsmanship,” Galloway said.
As a child, Galloway said, he never imagined an international sporting event would one day be held in his hometown.
“As a veteran and an athlete, I believe it is increasingly important for the children and young adults to be surrounded with the friendly competition and challenges that not only shape their bodies, but also their minds.”
Sellers said Galloway has represented “the true embodiment of overcoming obstacles.”
Galloway will join four other honorary co-chairs – all native Alabamians who are used to media attention: legendary country music star Randy Owen, former NBA all-star Charles Barkley and Olympic gold medal bobsledder Vonetta Flowers, who was the first black woman to win gold in the Winter Olympics.
“I’m so excited that this man is going to be running the American Flag on July 7, 2022, in the opening ceremonies in front of millions of people on global television at a huge moment for our city and state as the largest international sporting event in the Southeast since the 1996 Olympics,” Sellers said. He also said it will be the first major international sporting event held before full-capacity crowds in the United States post-pandemic.
“The World Games 2022 is dedicated to the implementation of what we are calling ‘a journey to one world, one games, an initiative for disability inclusion and access,’” Sellers said.
The Birmingham games will be the first major international sporting event for amateur athletes that includes competitions for athletes with and without disabilities.
“Wheelchair rugby will be on the official platform here, and if you have not seen these incredible athletes compete, you are in for an incredible treat to witness history when they compete on global television,” Sellers said.
Through a partnership with the Lakeshore Foundation and the presenting sponsor, Drummond Company, organization officials have sought to create a diverse steering committee to create an inclusive and accessible athlete experience on and off the field. It also is enhancing accessibility for fans from the time they arrive in Birmingham until they leave.
Originally scheduled to take place this year, the 11th annual event was delayed due to the pandemic and will be hosted July 7-17, 2022.
Composed of about 30 official sports, the event will include participation of more than 3,600 athletes representing more than 100 countries. Sports on the roster are supported by the International Olympic Committee.
Sellers noted that athletes in six of the competitions that will take place next summer are now preparing to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Among well-known and well-loved sports are softball, karate, sport climbing, handball and gymnastics.
The games also will include sports Sellers and fellow officials believe will make it to the Olympic platform in the future, including lacrosse, parkour, water skiing and wakeboarding and dancesport.
Events will take place in more than 25 venues throughout the Greater Birmingham area, including Over the Mountain venues at John Carroll Catholic High School, the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium and Oak Mountain State Park.