Triathletes with disabilities training for Paralympics

June 19, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Triathlon is the new event. It's already generating a strong group of athletes with disabilities who are now starting to train with a new organization called Dare 2 Tri.

Triathletes must swim, bike and run. For athletes with physical disabilities there are more challenges, according to 2008 Paralympics swimmer Melissa Stockwell.

" As an above the knee amputee so we'll swim with no prosthetic. So, we'll just get in the water and swim. But then at the water's edge when we get out ,we'll have someone hand us quickly our running leg, put the running leg on. We'll run from the water's edge to the transition area. From the transition area, we'll run to out bike, and at the point, we'll switch from our running leg to our biking leg. Come back and switch back to the running leg," said Stockwell, who has completed several triathlons.

"In September of last year, the world championship took place in Budapest, and I was lucky enough to come across the finish line first. So, that was pretty exciting," she said.

Stockwell is one of the co-founders of Dare 2 Tri triathlon club, which started earlier this year.

Keri Schindler from Great Lakes Adaptive Sport Association is another co-founder.

"When we started this idea, we thought we might get eight to 10 athletes interested in the sport of triathlon, and we currently have 64 athletes with a physical or visual impairment signed up to participate in this triathlon this first season in 2011," Schindler said.

To help train for the Paralympics Games, athletes have to compete in general triathlons that are scheduled around the country. But during the Paralympics, triathletes will compete against athletes who have similar disabilities.

Mary Kate Callahan is training in the wheelchair event. Her original goal was to qualify for 2016 Paralympics Games as a swimmer.

" I love all sports like swimming, track and hand cycle, and I thought it'd be cool to just incorporate all of them in one event. And its been hard for me to choose one sport and just stick with it. So, I love trying to do track and swim and do hand cycle," said Callahan.

"I'm very new to the sport of running. I kind of just decided in February that this was something I wanted to do. So, I just got fit with this running a couple months ago and ran my first 5K a week after the fact," said Hailey Danisewicz, who is new to competitive sports

"Our club motto is one inspires many. And we truly believe that having athletes with disabilities out there competing at various triathlons different distances -- from super sprint all the way through iron man -- really inspires individuals to get active and be healthy and get involved in their community events," said Schindler.

"The goal is to get these athletes into these triathlons through various sponsorships and through various partners. We're able to kind of help with the registration cost of doing the races and kind of just to get these athletes out there to the starting line," said Stockwell.

"It's a lot of training for them. Some of them have competed previously, but most of them are new. So, first time experiences for them, which is good," said Dan Tun, also a co-founder of Dare 2 Tri who has competed in the Ironman competition.

"Kind of have to have that four or five years plan because the Paralympics are on the same level as the Olympics, and those athletes are elite athletes that train for many, many years," said Schindler said.

Paralympics will also have a triathlon division for the blind and visual impaired.

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