FORT BELVOIR, Va. (DC News Now) — Just 18 months ago, when she received a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, Retired Cpl. Tiffanie Johnson of Bethesda, Md. never that thought she would walk again, let alone sprint down a track during an international competition.

Now, the 28-year-old is bound for Düsseldorf, Germany to compete in the Invictus Games for Team U.S.

U.S. athletes convened at Fort Belvoir over Labor Day weekend to integrate for team sports and to prepare for next week’s competition. Johnson will compete in track and field, volleyball and cycling.

The games, founded in 2014 by Prince Harry, are designed to “use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding of, and respect for, those who serve their country and their loved ones,” according to the organization.

More than 500 athletes from 21 countries will compete in 11 adaptive sports, including archery, track and field, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and table tennis.

Fitness had always been a central part of Johnson’s life. Prior to moving to South Korea in 2022 with the Army, she got in the greatest shape of her life. Then, on the long flight aboard, she realized she couldn’t lift her legs.

“I noticed that my mobility was changing. So whenever I was trying to like lift my legs, I was unable to,” she said. “Then after a while, it got to the point that I couldn’t feel from my waist down.”

Doctors in South Korea diagnosed her with MS. Her neurologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later confirmed the diagnosis.

“I think the biggest challenge was mentally overcoming that there are some things I had to relearn how to do,” she said. “It doesn’t stop me from doing anything but I do have to learn how to do things differently.”

A turning point for her was finding solace, and eventually hope, in team sports. She earned a spot competing in the Warrior Games last year, which the Invictus Games are modeled after.

“Doing adaptive sports really helped me just recover and regain that confidence again,” Johnson said. “You get to meet other athletes who have similar issues or conditions that they are mentally working through and overcoming.”

Competing in track and field, though, is a leap of faith. In fact, she didn’t even volunteer to run for the team, out of fear that her legs wouldn’t cooperate with her willpower. It was her coaches with Team U.S. who chose the events for her.

“To know that not only my teammates, but my coaches, there are other people on the team who believed in me,” she said. “To do track, gave me a newfound confidence. After being out here for a week, I feel like I can run, spring, jump. I could do it all full speed without fear of falling or something terrible going wrong.”

Those teammates will be by her side each step of the way, as will her mother and some lifelong friends. Johnson said she is an “Army brat,” having graduated high school in Schweinfurt, Germany, just 230 miles from this year’s Invictus Games location. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Johnson, whose future was once obscured by MS, now holds a lifetime of adventure.

Johnson said the biggest thing is having to believe in yourself.

“I think believing in yourself and having that confidence within, that you can do it, even if you don’t think you can right now, just showing up for yourself and believing you can do anything,” she said.

The competition’s opening ceremony will be held on Sept. 9 and run through Sept. 18.