Tuesday military sports links: Airmen in NFL and CFL, sailor in Paralympics, wrestlers win in Serbia

Spencer Armstrong

Air Force wideout Spencer Armstrong hauls in a pass during the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl. (US Presswire photo by Stew Milne)

From Denver to Calgary to London to Belgrade and all points in between, here’s a few quick hits spanning eight or so time zones:

Oh? Canada? Air Force 2nd Lt. Spencer Armstrong’s college football career barely took off — the wideout missed five games his junior season with a hamstring injury, then broke his leg three games into his senior year, rejoining the Falcons in December for the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl (and that cool picture on the right). The Canada-born Armstrong was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 2009, but as with other aspiring sports stars from military academies, he’ll have to finish his service commitment, unless he can convince the Air Force that games in Canada will help the recruiting mission. Get an update at the end of this Calgary Herald blog post, some background on Armstrong here, and another recent Herald update here.

That other pro league. While Armstrong continues active-duty service, 1st Lt. Ben Garland just wrapped up minicamp with the Denver Broncos. The Air Force Academy grad hopes to catch on as a defensive lineman while serving in the Colorado Air National Guard during the offseason. Get the latest on his NFL quest here.

Paralympic record-smasher. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder lost both eyes in a September bomb blast in Afghanistan. A swimmer since he was a kid, including time on the Naval Academy swim team, Snyder returned to the pool after his injury and took aim at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Bill Briggs at msnbc.com has chronicled Snyder’s quest, which reached its apex over the weekend — needing to improve his time in the 400-meter freestyle by 41 seconds to secure a spot, Snyder knocked off nearly a minute, setting a world record in the distance for blind athletes and qualifying him for a U.S. team that could have about 30 active-duty and retired service members, Briggs reports. Read the three-part installment here, here and here, and check back with After Action and the Military Times sites later this summer for more on Snyder and other military men and women chasing gold in London.

Mango, Byers big in Belgrade. Speaking of medal-seekers, Army Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers went 3-0 and didn’t allow a point en route to a heavyweight gold medal at the Ljubomir Ivanovic Gedza International Greco-Roman wrestling tournament over the weekend in Belgrade, Serbia. Byers, named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, was joined on the gold-medal list by Army World Class Athlete Program teammate Sgt. Spenser Mango, who took first in the 55-kilogram weight class, then finished third in the 60-kg event. Spc. Justin Lester took third in the 74-kg tournament. All three will compete in the London games: Byers at heavyweight, Mango at 55 kg and Lester at 66 kg. Read more about the Belgrade tourney here and here.


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