Blog posts tagged in athlete

ATHLETE PROFILE: Holly Bird, Karate

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b2ap3_thumbnail_bird-profile.jpgHolly Bird hails from Hertfordshire, England and is no stranger to law enforcement. With both parents retiring from a long career with the police, and her brother currently working a neighboring division, Holly herself first started her journey in law enforcement at the age of 18. Since that time, she has worked in many roles, starting out in dispatch, but recently became an Officer! She is passionate about helping genuine victims obtain true justice and that focus keeps her fueled during the long hours and sometimes adverse situations.

Because of the nature of the job, Holly is often reminded of how short life can be. Last year, the point was driven home that we all are only given one life to live, there are no dress rehearsals. Holly says “Life is too short to dwell on things that you cannot change, too short to have negative people bringing you down in your life and too short to not be making yourself happy. I have made some big changes in my life over the last 12 months. But, regret scares me a lot more than change does so I embrace it now. That change of mind set is the whole reason I jumped on the chance to come to Fairfax!” Holly, we are glad you’re making the leap!

Karate has been a part of Holly’s life for the majority, starting with Wado Ryu at the age of 8 and switching to Shotokan in her early teens. Her favorite movies/tv shows were – not surprisingly - The Karate Kid, Power Rangers and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and she wanted to learn all of the amazing moves, including the spinning high kicks. Her father was a karateka (practitioner of karate) and watching him consistently reach his goals and obtain his black belt, she too wanted that same achievement for herself.

Entering European competition when she was 18, she began to love the art of making every technique look as beautiful and accurate as possible (kata). Recently, she has also begun to enjoy kumite as well, which literally translated means “grappling hands.”

Karate is not just a sport for Holly, it is truly a way of life. She says “It’s the constant in my life that I can turn to whenever things feel out of balance. I think most martial artists understand that.” We asked what sport she would love to try or learn and she answered beach volleyball, although she readily admits that while her hand / eye coordination is stellar in the martial arts, when you add a ball to the mix, it all goes downhill.

Citing her parents as her true heroes, watching them live their lives to the fullest serves as great motivation for Holly. What an amazing surprise to Holly that her parents will be coming along with her to watch her compete at the Fairfax 2015 Games!  

Outside of her own family, she greatly respects Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez for his style, charisma and his love of the spiritual side of fighting. In recent years, Holly has begun to follow and hold great admiration for Ronda Rousey as she develops and smashes down barriers for women in Martial Arts. 

If Holly isn’t training or working, you’ll find her surfing! She loves being in the sea, away from the noise of everyday life. Spending time with friends and family is also important to her, especially her adorable 5 year old nephew! Holly is a firm believer of alternative therapies and enjoys growing her own plants and foods and believes in the healing power of crystals. She is an advocate of healthy homegrown foods and loves making them taste as good as the full fat versions! 

HOLLY IS MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO: meeting all of her fellow athletes, visiting DC in the summertime and is SUPER excited about seeing the Foo Fighters in concert on July 4th!



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ATHLETE PROFILE : Clara Irurita, Soccer

Posted by on in Road To The Games

b2ap3_thumbnail_clara-profile.JPGThere are only a few weeks left until the 2015 World Police and Fire Games (WPFG), hosted by Fairfax County, V.A., will hold its opening ceremonies on Friday, June 26 at RFK Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C. With an estimated 12,000 law enforcement and fire service personnel from around the globe traveling to the Washington, D.C. region, many will arrive through either Washington Dulles International Airport or Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Not only will these be the arrival sites of many of the World Police and Fire Games participants, the airports have eleven Public Safety officials who volunteered as representatives to compete in the games.

One of the competitors in the 2015 WPFG is Clara Irurita, an Airports Authority Firefighter at Washington Dulles International Airport. Irurita is a member of the women’s outdoor soccer team comprised of 11 female athletes from Police and Fire departments in surrounding jurisdictions. Although these first responders may have different jobs professionally, on the field they are all part of a team that seamlessly communicates and coordinates each play leading to wins and a great team spirit.

Irurita’s philosophy is that there needs to be a steady flow of information between everyone in order to achieve a given objective. She believes this applies in the sport of soccer and with her team, the U.S. Capitol Police Alliance, specifically.

“If we are not focused on the game or communicating to one another there is a greater chance that we would not have a good team dynamic and achieve any success on the field,” Irurita said.

As the Games approach, Irurita looks forward to the great team atmosphere and cohesiveness that leads to winning soccer matches. Despite being the only firefighter on a team of police officers, Clara recognizes that she’s part of a community, which shares the common goal of representing the U.S. during the World Police and Fire Games.

Serving as a firefighter for more than 8 years, Clara Irurita, 31, joined Station 302 at Dulles International Airport only recently, in 2014. Although, she is a newcomer to the Airports Authority, Irurita is not new to the field of athletic competition, especially in the soccer arena. Clara first began playing soccer as a child at a local park with kids in her neighborhood.  Then, she began playing competitively at the age of 14 and continued the sport while she attended college.

After 20 years of experience on the soccer field, Clara is ready to play in the WPFG as a right forward.

“This is truly an incredible opportunity to represent the nation’s capital on an international level through a sport that I have so much passion for,” said Irurita.

For Irurita and her teammates, competing on the international soccer stage brings the added challenge of facing a high level of competition from experienced teams from around the world.

Irurita is determined to not only be prepared but be in the best shape possible; she and her U.S. Capitol Police Alliance teammates are training 6 days a week and competing in soccer matches 5 days per week. In total, the team has been practicing together for 6 months.

Irurita and her teammates have learned to balance their intense training schedule with their jobs as emergency responders, which is made easier through the support of their colleagues.

“The people I work with at the Airports Authority have been very supportive, they even take time from their busy schedules to train with me each week.” she said.

Airports Authority Fire Chief Gary Mesaris is one of her biggest supporters and will be at the Games cheering for Irurita and her team.

“Since joining the Airports Authority, Clara has always shown an impressive work ethic that makes us proud to have her as part of our team at Washington Dulles International Airport,” Mesaris said. “Clara’s strong dedication and passion for her sport makes her a great participant for the World Police and Fire Games.”

Irurita recognizes that the Games are more than just about the winning for her, and she is excited to represent the U.S. as the hosts of the games. She hopes to inspire other young women to enter the field of public safety and consider competing internationally in the Games in the future – maybe as early as the 2017 Games, set to take place in Montreal, Canada, or the 2019 Games in Sichuan, China.

Athletes traveling through Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on their way to or from the 2015 World Police and Fire Games are invited to visit special welcome booths on the baggage claim level to receive a free gift, while supplies last, and pick up information about the region.


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ATHLETE PROFILE : Thomas Giannettino, Triathlon

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b2ap3_thumbnail_athlete-thomas-giannettino.jpgThomas A. Giannettino is someone who doesn’t give up easily. After 21 years in the Air Force and New York Air National Guard, he began a career with the New York State Police in 1999. Working as a uniform trooper at the beginning and later promoted to Investigator in 2007, his most proud moment was assisting in New York City after 9/11. He says “I am so humbled that I had the privilege of being a part of that time in history.”

While on duty in November of 2011, Tom was brutally assaulted and suffered a life changing injury to his shoulder, leaving him depressed and not sure where to turn. After numerous surgeries and much time spent rehabilitating his shoulder and arm, his range of motion remained severely impacted and with very little use of his arm. His doctor finally delivered the news that he should consider finding a different career and Tom retired in 2012.

He didn’t let that stop him, however, and giving up has never been an option. He started competing in triathlons in 2013 and to date has received top billing in multiple Northeast Region Paratriathlons, a Half Ironman, Sprint Distance events and more. The difficulty and discipline of the triathlon is what drew Tom’s attention and because he was required to learn to swim and bike with just one arm, the mental determination was also a way to allow him to heal both physically and mentally.

So far this season, Tom has raced in East London, South Africa and Sunshine Coast Australia. Tom said “I can definitely improve, but I’ve earned enough points so far to be world ranked and in the hunt to become a Paralympics’ hopeful for Rio in 2016.” Bravo, Tom! At the writing of this article, Tom is competing for the Paratriathlon Continental Championship in Monterrey, Mexico.

Citing his father as his role model, Tom credits many of his own traits and core values as being linked directly to the valuable lessons he learned from his father, a Marine during WWII. Any free time he has that is not dedicated to training, he spends with his family, and Tom also happens to be a movie buff. If you ask Tom what one thing most people don’t know about him, it’s that he loves rap music!

Tom isn’t just determined to improving his own health and the quality of his family relationships, he also gives back a considerable amount of time by volunteering for Operation Homeland Honor, an organization developed to help permanently injured first responders and veterans become active in sports and competition as a way to heal and become active again in life.  Additionally, he participates and volunteers with the Second Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club. As a participant, he is a member of their elite athlete team but as a volunteer, he gives his time to assist with the kid’s camp and other various activities providing guidance and instruction of the sport of triathlon to physically challenged and visually impaired athletes.  If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he also volunteers with Team RWB and Code 9: Officer Needs Assistance, both of which were crucial in Tom’s own suffering and healing from Post Traumatic Stress.

During the Fairfax 2015 Games, Tom is looking forward to reconnecting with his Operation Homeland Honor teammates, who are scattered all over the country, but will be reuniting this Summer in Fairfax, Virginia!



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ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT: Amy Harris, CrossFit®

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b2ap3_thumbnail_amyharris.jpgMeet Amy Harris, competing for the first time in the World Police and Fire Games. She also will be competing for the first time in CrossFit® on an international level and her love and passion will no doubt shine through during her competition.

Amy started training in CrossFit® two years ago and says it was “love at first sweat”. Loving that it incorporates so many varied movements and styles of training, she has been competing locally since the early days of her training. Although new to CrossFit®, she was no stranger to competing. She has since embraced the process of building her strength, her speed and improving her health. Amy has a past history with soccer, softball, track and rowing, all of which has given her a leg up (notably, the rowing experience) because of the endurance required. More than just the physical conditioning, however, Amy is appreciative of the mental toughness she has gained from the sport.

Amy earned her EMT/IV Tech after graduating from the Fire Rescue Academy and was then promoted to a Fire Specialist. She has been a firefighter with the Baltimore County Fire Department for almost 7 years and recently, was nominated to the Battalion Health Coordinator for her Department.

She takes full advantage of her opportunities for continuing her education and has earned professional qualifications including hazardous materials technician, rescue technician (vehicle extrication), high angle rescue, incident response to explosives for first responders, and more. She fully intends to contribute in any way possible to the forward progression of her department, especially in the fitness arena as she progresses to becoming an officer.

Amy is driven and with high levels of motivation, however, patience is not one of her strong suits. That drive and high motivation sometimes leave her impatient when new skills aren’t quickly mastered. She credits a 25-year veteran firefighter for teaching her to slow down and simply break down a situation into steps and proceed through them without short cuts. He went on to teach Amy that those shortcuts would only cost more in the long run and she uses that advice still to this day in her career.

This lack of patience also affected Amy in the gym and while rushing to perfect technical lifts, she suffered a torn labrum because she was trying to keep up with veteran CrossFit® athletes. Moving too fast, increasing weight too rapidly and failing to listen to her body, she learned another important lesson about what happens when shortcuts are chosen.

When she’s not at work or training, you’ll find Amy spending quality time with her family. They truly are her balance in life and she says “they contribute more than they know to my happiness. It’s a foundation that I am not willing to sacrifice. People lose family members in the blink of an eye so I never hesitate to tell them I love them.”

You might be surprised to learn that Amy is extremely passionate about visual and performing art, playing classical music on the flute and piccolo as a child and even had her artwork submitted in congressional art competitions.

AMY IS EXCITED TO: meeting international veterans of the World Police and Fire Games, as well as watching athletes from departments all over the world compete at their sport.


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ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT: Jon Haase, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

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b2ap3_thumbnail_spotlight-jonhaas-1.jpg“Pinch me” is what Jon Haase will say if you ask about his experience with former World Police and Fire Games. “I was lucky enough to be paired with one of the best officers I've ever met AND came away with the ultimate prize!” Jon says when I asked him to describe his golf partner, Retired Officer Pete Lucas.

Jon has competed in FOUR World Police & Fire Games: Adelaide, Vancouver B.C., NYC and Belfast, as well as the 2008, 2012 and 2014 U.S. Police and Fire Games.  Jon was quick to mention that the most notable aspect of the Games involves the camaraderie of the athletes, the welcoming nature of the local residents and the competition. He still maintains his relationships with Police and Fire members from Finland, Australia, China, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Malaysia and Germany (not to mention the brotherhood of US team members he frequently travels to see during off years). He says “I would never have imagined the level of life enrichment I have experienced had I not seized this opportunity.”

Jon’s first love was not golf, however. Baseball occupied his life as a child and he even attended college on a full ride scholarship for the sport. After several injuries, his dream of playing in the major leagues was no longer possible, and while searching for a replacement sport, golf found its way to him. In the first ten years of golfing, he realized that his competitive streak was back and he began playing in tournaments. Lowering his handicap from 12 to 4, he states “Golf’s true challenge is competing within yourself, not playing against those in the same tournament. When I solely focus on my mechanics and not the score, I can invest myself in enjoying my playing partners while also performing at peak efficiency. A win-win situation!”

Jon is a 24 yr veteran of the Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office, assigned to the Corrections Division and currently a Sergeant, overseeing a staff of 12 to 40 Deputies as they provide a safe and secure environment for our clients.

b2ap3_thumbnail_spotlight-jonhaas-2.jpgJon is no stranger to service, above and beyond his job duties, including overseeing the Sherriff’s Office Honor Guard, managing the Peer Support Team, as well as serving on numerous committees for the betterment of facilities. “Being granted the opportunity to work with and evaluate new recruits is what I am most proud of.  The opportunity to regularly see this career through new eyes, witness their “ah-ha” moments and help them navigate through difficult learning lessons keeps me invigorated.  To know that I have been given the opportunity to pay my blessings forward and make a difference in a person’s development has become my absolute focus and will be how I measure my success here.”

When asked to share a struggle he’s overcome, Jon shared that after ten years of his career, he had begun relying on alcohol to alleviate job related stress. Realizing the toll it was taking on himself and the effects his family was also feeling, he committed himself to the gym a minimum of three times per week and completely stopped consuming any alcohol.  “With the help of several important people in my life I was able to implement and maintain these lifestyle changes.  I am happy to say that 14 years later I am still a gym rat and alcohol free.”

You won’t just find Jon in the gym, at work or on the golf course! He uses every possible minute of each day to the fullest and is an avid fisherman and owner of two boats, who also loves to camp and hike AND enjoys working in his yard! We like this motto: “I firmly believe that the fun one has while outdoors is directly proportional to the number of people you are participating with!”

Jon is consistently looking for ways to improve the lives of those around him and is giving back to others in an effort to pay forward the mentorship he himself was given throughout his life. We will be glad to welcome Jon and his family to Fairfax County for the Games!

On Jon’s MUST SEE list for Fairfax County and the DC Metro area: Most excited to see all of his World Police and Fire brothers and sisters! Jon hasn’t been in the area for over 18 years and is looking forward to experiencing the sites with his family.

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ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT: Kenton Givens - Submission Grappling

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b2ap3_thumbnail_KentonGivensFamily.jpgHe doesn’t share this information with most, but Kenton Givens is a disabled combat veteran who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as a Marine. His wife is US Army and Kenton himself also has a long career in law enforcement. They have four daughters and one son between the ages of 5 and 18 and we are guessing there is never a dull day in their home!

Kenton will be participating in the World Police and Fire Games for the first time at the Fairfax 2015 games, as a competitor in submission grappling. He holds a BJJ Blue Belt at the Jiu Jitsu Institute in Yorktown, Virginia and holds a Black Belt in Judo with the Virginia Academy of Judo. His past experience with competition has only been on the local level in Gi, so the upcoming No Gi level will be a big step for him, but one is mentally and physically ready for. Gi participants are clothed in a kimono, or the customary white jacket/pants while No Gi participants typically only wear board shorts. Another major difference between Gi and No Gi is the point structure as well as certain moves that are allowed and varying takedown strategies.

Kenton has been a police officer since 2001 and is currently assigned as the Department K9 trainer, as well as holding the title of Senior Master b2ap3_thumbnail_KentonGivensK9.jpgHandler. He has worked uniform patrol as a County Officer and in the local jail as a Deputy Sheriff as well. When asked what piece of advice he would give someone aspiring to have a career in law enforcement, Kenton answered:

“Never stop training, it doesn't matter what department you work for, never wait on your department to train you. This is a professional career, and to be the best at it -- at the moment of truth -- you have to train in all aspects of combat, firearms, verbal judo, defensive tactics, the laws, etc. Train and take care of one another so everyone can make it home.”

Kenton puts family first, training second and says that he has been painfully aware of how quickly time flies, now that he his oldest daughter is going to college. He says to enjoy life and never take it for granted. He has learned that children truly allow you to live, laugh, love and cry and he appreciates watching them grow and learn.

He cites his wife as being his biggest source of encouragement and motivation, as she consistently pushes him forward in his dreams and aspirations. He draws inspiration from his Katrina Y. Soriano, his best friend who he lost to cancer several years ago. After attending academy together, they were zone partners during their career and he now wears a bracelet in her honor, reminding him to always work harder.

Kenton’s MUST SEE Virginia recommendations: National Harbor of Maryland, a drive down to Virginia Beach, as well as the historic sites in Virginia.


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Athlete Spotlight: Adam Wilson, Gastonia Police Department

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b2ap3_thumbnail_newsletter-wilson.jpgImagine growing up as a young boy, constantly being told to be careful. Not the kind of “be careful” where your mom catches you roughhousing with your sibling; this kind of “be careful” is the one where a doctor tells you not to ride a bike or play sports

A young boy told at an early age that he can’t ride a bike, play football, or play soccer seems a little unfair.

Such is the childhood endured by Adam Wilson. Born with a blockage that caused one kidney to deteriorate while impacting development of the other, “be careful” was an everyday staple of Wilson’s life.

But did he listen?

What do you think?

Against doctor’s orders, he still rode bikes and enjoyed a relatively normal childhood, just minus the sports. This routine followed him all through high school, ultimately causing the military to turn him down.

Of course, none of this would stop Adam Wilson.

Fueled by an extremely competitive attitude he knew sitting on the sidelines had gone on long enough.  He started running ultimately setting his sights on an ultra-marathon. His nephrologist insisted that he give up long distance running because of the pressure it puts on the kidneys so Wilson made a deal, “I would come right back after my ultra-marathon (the North Face Endurance Challenge in Atlanta) and if my kidney function had dropped I would stop.”   After the race, Wilson returned to the doctor and was delighted to learn that his Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) numbers had actually improved!  Scratching his head, the doctor decided that Wilson’s one kidney was more efficient than most. Deemed essentially healthy, he was given the green light to pursue whatever he wanted.

b2ap3_thumbnail_newsletter-wilsonram.jpgSince the ultra-marathon, Wilson joined the Gastonia Police Department’s SWAT team, a highly-regarded squad that has won many competitions including a world championship on ESPN. Wilson saw this as an opportunity to pursue a dream he coveted since his childhood: he wanted to be part of a team. “I’ve always had a ‘going to the extreme’ personality,” he said. “If I am going to start running, I want to run an ultra- marathon, If I am going to be a cop, I want to be SWAT. If I work out, I want to make it as crazy as possible.” SWAT is not just any team, Wilson says.  “It’s about as intense as it gets.”  And to better his performance as part of that team, and to better himself, Wilson took up CrossFit®.

He got hooked right away.  If he wasn’t competitive before, he most certainly is now. “CrossFit® is about mental toughness and who can keep pushing forward whenever you feel like quitting,” he says. “You can never be finished getting better.”

Adam Wilson will participate in next summer’s World Police & Fire Games as part of its first ever CrossFit® competition and he is going to enjoy every minute. “I know that the WPFG does not come around my area very often and I don’t know how many chances I will have in my career to take part in an event like this.  I want to make the most of it.”

With his wife, Amy, and their three-pound Yorkie, Ben, in his corner, Adam is ready to take on the world. Even with one kidney he is clearly a force with which to be reckoned.

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Athlete Spotlight: Tamara Sylvan of the Toronto Fire Services

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b2ap3_thumbnail_75769_10150292351195389_7971075_n.jpgWhen the Toughest Competitor Alive (TCA) takes center stage at next summer’s World Police & Fire Games, one participant to watch will be a 14-year veteran firefighting mother of three from Toronto, Ontario.

A First Class Firefighter and Shift Training Instructor for Toronto Fire Services, Tamara Sylvan participated in the TCA during the New York Games in 2011.  While she failed to reach the podium, she can take solace in her effort.  “It was a great experience,” she said.  “The competition was fierce --  watch out for those Spanish ladies!  I managed some personal bests but I still have a long way to go before I medal.  I will be pushing extra hard this winter to make sure I come back stronger than I did in 2011.”

One of the most demanding of all the competitions, TCA actually consists of eight events over a single day.  It begins with a 7 a.m. 5K cross country “run from hell,” as Tamara describes it followed by shotput and a 100-meter dash at the track.  Competitors then move to the pool for a 100 meter swim sprint before heading to the gym for a 20-foot, hands-only rope climb followed by bench press and pull-ups.  The competition concludes outdoor with a firefighter/EMT obstacle course which includes a dummy drag, monkey bars and wall climb.

While Toronto Fire sends hundreds of competitors to the Games and several compete in multiple sports, TCA will be Tamara’s only event.  “Trust me when I tell you, one is enough with TCA,” she says.  

The training, Tamara says, is intense.  “For me, it’s incredibly challenging balancing training, three kids, full-time firefighting and owning my own CPR and First Aid company,” she says.  “I am also on the board of directors for The Toronto Firefighters Toy Drive, I teach at Toronto-area colleges and I also need to find some time for hubby who owns his own fitness studio and designs all of my training programs and nutrition.”  

With the games less than 10 months away, Tamara expects to elevate that training in the coming months.  “While most TCA competitors train harder in summer, I have to scale back because my three kids are out of school, so I will be ramping up my training efforts and time significantly this winter. I feel that I am a bit behind in training right now, but we will have to wait and see what happens. I am crossing my fingers that my back and shoulder will hold up!”

For a detailed look at next Summer’s Toughest Competitor Alive event, please visit

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