GLENDALE, Colo. –
Hospital Corpsman Cyprian Shimenga of NMC Portsmouth, Va. has played rugby since he was a teenager, from growing up in Kenya, to graduating from West Virginia University. Rugby is still constant in his life as he represents the U.S. Navy on the All Navy Rugby Team.
Shimenga’s visibly gasping for air after colliding with a ball carrier on a field almost as wide as it is long. He’s competing in the 2018 Armed Forces Rugby Sevens Championship Tournament in Glendale, Colo. The Mile-high elevation acts quick on a player’s endurance says Shimenga.
“It’s a pretty short time to acclimate to the change in elevation,” says Shimenga. “You feel it immediately, first or second sprint you’re noticing the difference. But you have to adapt, it’s a very tight competition with amazing talent.”
Shimenga immediately recovers from the collision and dives right back into another body-thudding hit. He follows it with a short sprint and the sequence of actions repeat for an entirety of a game.
The tournament is arduous; these players play multiple games, for multiple days, often playing through injury and exhaustion.
That spirit was helps him outside of the game, reinforcing his efforts in his goals, and Naval career.
“When I was looking at what I would do to better myself, to achieve professional goals and to make my life better, I turned to the U.S. Navy,” said Shimenga. “I would research more and more, and I knew it was right for me. I knew it would be tough, I knew I would have to work hard and I knew the benefits the Navy would provide wouldn’t come without effort, but I knew I could do it.”
After basic training and A-school, Shimenga was headed to his first duty station at Naval Hospital Portsmouth. It was here he started wanted to continue playing rugby, which lead him to be invited to play for the Norfolk Blues Rugby Team. That team finished in 2nd place during the same competition he is representing All-Navy in.
His coach had informed him about the U.S. Navy having a team, and it was looking for players. Shimenga jumped at the chance.
“I was supported by everyone,” said Shimenga. “My Chain-of-Command stood behind me all the way, and was so enthusiastic I was surprised. My leading petty officer even told me he had never met anyone that was All-Navy, in any sport. I was honored to know I could represent the most powerful navy in the world.”
Shimenga’s demeanor while speaking about the Navy, about rugby and about the opportunities they have provided for him are all said emphatically. He feels fortunate to be able to play rugby while serving a nation he has come to call home.
“I would have never thought I would be here while being able to be a part of the U.S. Navy,” Said Shimenga. “I am provided the opportunity to grow, to become a leader, to travel and to go to school using provided benefits and to play to rugby. I feel so, so fortunate.”
The effort Shimenga shows on the field, resonates with his efforts towards bettering his life. He thanks the efforts of the leadership around him, his teammates and the experiences afforded to him to help him accomplish his goals.
“I am always excited for what’s next and moving forward. That being said, one thing that has been constant for me is playing Rugby and I have received so much support and have enjoyed it so wholeheartedly, that I would love to continue to play Rugby for Navy. It has been a joy for me.”