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photo: JANOS M SCHMIDT
Veterans to Victors Paratriathlon Camp Set to Open Thursday
More than 30 wounded military veterans to attend three-day event
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Nearly 30 wounded military veterans will participate in a three-day paratriathlon camp organized by USA Triathlon and its USA Paratriathlon Committee beginning Thursday in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The event is funded in part by a grant won by USA Triathlon in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s inaugural Team USA Grants contest.
Dubbed Veterans to Victors, the camp will introduce triathlon’s disciplines of swimming, cycling and running to participants who largely have physical disabilities such as limb loss, paralysis and spinal cord injuries.
The three-day camp will be under the direction of the USA Paratriathlon Committee. Assisting in the planning and implantation along with the committee are individuals from the Texas Region Paralympic Sports organization, Operation Comfort (San Antonio) and the Armed Forces Services Corporation (San Antonio), as well as support from many military installation agencies and civilians with ties to the south Texas military communities.
“We’re extremely honored to bring the sport of paratriathlon to our armed services heroes,” said USA Paratriathlon Committee chairman Mike Lenhart, a graduate of West Point with personal ties to this type of military effort. “The challenges associated with participation in a triathlon competition as well as the strategy leading up to preparing for a race, are great compliments to skills many of these individuals have been taught in the military.”
Participants will be divided into two primary groups for the camp’s curriculum — wheelchair athletes and ambulatory athletes. Groups will follow a guided curriculum of swimming-cycling-running for the ambulatory participants, and swimming-handcycling-racing wheelchair for the wheelchair participants.
Each portion of the curriculum will be led by experts in the field, as well as accomplished world-class paratriathletes who’ve participated in the sport for a number of years in the United States and on the international stage. Among the disabled individuals planning to participate as part of the coaching are Scott Rigsby (two-time Ironman World Championship finisher, bilateral leg amputee), Melissa Stockwell (U.S. Army veteran, leg amputee and three-time ITU world champion), Casey Tibbs (U.S. Navy veteran, leg amputee and four-time Paralympic Games medalist) and Saul Mendoza (professional wheelchair athlete and six-time Paralympic medalist).
Unique to this particular event is the joint collaboration between several of the nation’s paratriathlon thought leaders. “The individuals that make up the Veterans to Victors committee have worked tirelessly to ensure that all aspects of the camp are well planned and thought through. There is a tremendous amount of experience among the committee members who each implement similar events in their own communities,” said Keri Schindler, USA Paratriathlon Committee member and Executive Director for the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club.
“This camp is a collaboration of those ideas and experiences and will hopefully allow this program to serve as a national model. It is truly a collaboration between several organizations, which are on the forefront of growing the paratriathlon program across the country. USA Triathlon is leading the charge and has enlisted all the major players from around the country, which will make this experience a meaningful one for all involved.”
Beyond this week’s effort, USA Triathlon is hopeful that the Veterans to Victors program will be the blueprint for future camps in 2013 and beyond for several other major military medical installations that offer physical activity as part of a concerted rehabilitation plan for U.S. wounded veterans.
Interest in paratriathlon is at an all-time high, and the sport continues to grow following a December 2010 announcement that it will debut at the Paralympic Summer Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. A leader on the international paratriathlon scene, the United States recently won the medal count at the 2012 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships with 13 medals. Visit usatriathlon.org for more on the sport of paratriathlon.
About USA Triathlon
Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon – the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Olympic Movement – as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 races and connects with more than 455,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Summer Olympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).