IOWA CITY — Two Iowa City police officers took home silver medals last month at an international sporting competition exclusive to police officers and firefighters.
And while patrol officers Ian Alke and Jared Harding are proud of their accomplishments in the wrestling division of the World Police and Fire Games, held Aug. 7-16 in Los Angeles, both men said the competition is about more than how you finish.
“Obviously, I wanted to win both times,” Harding said of his two matches, against wrestlers from Russia and India. “But just getting the chance to compete and challenge myself again was satisfying. The atmosphere and camaraderie are fantastic.”
And while the grappling is intense when you’re out on the mat, bonds are formed once the matches are over, Alke said.
“The mission of the whole thing is to get everybody together,” he said.
The World Police and Fire Games take place every two years. To qualify, participants must be police officers or firefighters. Events range from archery and badminton to track and field, surfing and beach volleyball. Alke said thousands of first responders from around the globe participate in the event.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said.
Both Harding and Alke participated in the 2015 games in Fairfax, Va., and decided to make the trip to Los Angeles for this year’s competition. The officers have been involved with wrestling most of their lives, wrestled in college and have coached high school wrestling in Eastern Iowa in recent years.
Alke described the wrestling competition as “pretty intense.”
“You’re pretty serious until the competition is over,” he said. “Everybody is there to win.”
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Away from the wrestling mats, competitors trade department patches, T-shirts and other items, Harding said. There is also an Athlete Village where participants and their families can socialize, he said.
“It’s a great chance to meet people from all over the world ...” he said.
Alke said he’s formed lasting relationships at the competitions, as well. In 2015, he wrestled a man from Turkey and the two continue to correspond on social media. Alke said he plans on staying in touch with the Russian and Indian grapplers he met this year.
Harding and Alke agree that the skills they’ve developed in wrestling and maintain through competitions like the World Police and Fire Games can be applied to their everyday lives.
“Wrestling is a great sport that teaches many life skills, such as hard work, overcoming adversity, self-motivation (and) teamwork,” Harding said. “These are skills that I will carry with me forever and will continue to use in all aspects of my life, professional or otherwise.”
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