Thanks to Dare2Tri, more people with disabilities are training for upcoming triathlon events that require multiple skills and adaptive devices.
Swimming, biking and running are the sports of a triathlete.
"We find most of the athletes that are coming to us have the greatest fear or least experience with the swim portion," said Keri Schindler, a co-founder of Dare2Tri. "People have done some cycling before, maybe they've done some running, done a race in a wheelchair, but a lot of people if they didn't grow up swimming either hadn't swam since they acquired their disability or weren't a swimmer growing up then the pool presents a real fear for them."
Since the Chicago-based organization started in January 2011, they have 85 athletes who have physical disabilities or are blind and more than175 able-bodied volunteers in the program.
"They might come out to our practices and run with our athletes, pilot a tandem bike…They might help at a water station," Schindler said.
Melissa Stockwell is also a co-founder of Dare2Tri and a member of the 2008 paralympic swim team. She now trains for triathlons.
"The challenge of doing all three and being able to swim, bike and run and really be out there with able-bodied athletes ,other athletes with disabilities like myself, it's a huge sense of accomplishment to do that," Stockwell said.
Hailey Danisewicz started training last year.
"After crossing the finish line at my very first race, I kind of realized, you know, if I can do this I can do anything and so that's carried on into every other aspect of my life," Danisewicz said.
Like Danisewicz, Diana Heit has become serious about this sport.
"My best triathlon took place a couple weeks ago," she said. "We did a sprint distance race in Ft. Wayne, Ind. and was able to finish the race in just over an hour and 40 minutes, so very proud of that performance. Saw some great gains on the bike and on the run and really feeling pretty confident moving into the Paratriathlon National Championship."
Besides competing in different triathlon events, they are hoping to be among the first group selected for the 2016 paralympics games when the paratriathlon will become part of the games.
In the meantime, they are gearing up for a full season of events.
For more information, visit www.dare2tri.org/