Toledo police take basketball gold at world gamesWritten by David Steffen | | email@example.com
When Toledo police faced their Spanish counterparts on the basketball court at the World Police and Fire Games in Vancouver, Canada the teams shared at least one common trait — a city of “Toledo.”
But the Toledo team soon realized it shared a more profound connection with the rival Spaniards through their dedication to protect.
“We all knew on the court it was competitive, but afterward, we respected each other because we’re all in the same profession,” said Ralph Green, deputy sheriff for the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office. “We all realized our lives are on the line based on the profession we do.”
Law enforcement and fire-fighting officials from around the world converged in Vancouver from Aug. 3 to Aug. 10 to compete in the World Police and Fire Games. Ten thousand participants from 45 nations competed in 65 sports, including basketball.
The “Toledo Pride” played various teams, including those from Spain, New Caledonia and Seattle, among others, to win the gold medal. It took months of preparation — financial and physical — to compete in the World Police and Fire Games.
“We had no idea what we were getting into,” Green said. “We had no idea what level of competition and talent we’d run into.”
The team had played successfully for seven years at the Ohio Fire and Police Games in Columbus. They decided to go one step further to the world games.
It took months of independent fundraising to gather the $17,000 needed to send the 10 Toledo law enforcement members to Vancouver. Meanwhile, the team had to practice five hours a week on the court for months. Green’s nephew is Tennessee Titans NFL player Nate Washington. He coached the team in basketball. The men were between 35 and 45.
“We practiced against some guys a lot younger and athletic than us,” Green said. “They challenged us to the fullest.”
After months of practice, team members were prepared.
“When that plane landed, I was ready to put my uniform on and go play,” Toledo Police Officer Andre Cowell said.
Cowell and Green said it was a powerful moment when they realized they had taken the gold. Twenty basketball teams from around the world had competed.
“When that last horn goes off, and you know the game’s over, emotions kicked in,” Cowell said. “We laughed, joked and shook hands with other teams, but then you get your medal. It’s all worth it in the end.”
Cowell said he was excited after the victory, as were his relatives.
“They were excited,” he said. “As soon as the game ended, I sent many texts at a time, and I texted, ‘World champs, baby.’”
When “Toledo Pride” received the gold, the national anthem played in the stadium.
“Emotions kind of took over, and reality set in that we’re representing the city of Toledo, the state of Ohio and the United States of America,” Green said.
Despite the competition on the court, “Toledo Pride” enjoyed socializing with foreign rivals off the court. Green and Cowell said defeated rivals would show up to cheer on “Toledo Pride” and bestow mementos. They exchanged pins and jerseys with their on-court rivals.
“It’s hard to believe that you beat someone, and in the aftermath, they present you with gifts as an act of kindness,” Cowell said.
While walking alone to a bar, the Spanish team recognized Cowell and circled him, he said.
“I saw guys from Spain we just beat the day before, and they formed a circle and started chanting, ‘U-S-A!’ Cowell said. “[At first,] I thought I was going to get robbed.”
Green said it was rewarding to meet with their foreign counterparts and learn about their cultures.
“Whether you win or lose, the experience of dealing with law enforcement officials from other countries builds everlasting relationships,” he said.
He said he was glad to represent his hometown on the world stage. They’re looking forward to the 2011 games in New York.
Green and Cowell said many foreigners weren’t familiar with Toledo, but they were happy to help put it on the map for them.
“We are very proud to be from Toledo, Ohio,” Green said. “For those who don’t know where Toledo is located — they know now.”
Tags: Toledo Police Dept.