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New PC Open Rules Allow Athletes to Race for First Time

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Paratriathlon’s strict categories have prevented some athletes from participating in multisport events. But 2014 brings new opportunities to the sport, thanks to the Physically Challenged (PC) Open Division rules added to the rulebook last fall.

The new rules allow the use of more adaptive equipment, making triathlon accessible to athletes with all types of disabilities, explained Charlie Crawford, USA Triathlon’s commissioner of officials, who made the revision to the rules based on recommendations and equipment analysis from the USA Triathlon Paratriathlon Committee.

For many athletes, it’s a game-changer.

Cycling to New Milestones

kyle bryant
Kyle Bryant swam in the Upper Main Line YMCA Triathlon to help prepare for a full triathlon. He was part of a relay representing Team FARA.
At 17 years old, Kyle Bryant was diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disorder called Friedreich’s ataxia (FA), which affects one in 50,000 people in the United States.

This debilitating and life-shortening disease caused a loss in Bryant’s coordination and balance, so he’s had to give up many of his favorite sports, including baseball, basketball, golf and skiing.

But in college, Bryant discovered something he could do — and do well. He’s been cycling on a recumbent three-wheeled bike ever since, raising more than $400,000 for FA research along the way. In 2010, he took it a step further and put together a four-man team to participate in Race Across America.

“We finished first in our division and 19 hours ahead of the cutoff time, even though two of the guys on our team had Friedreich’s ataxia, an energy deprivation disease that’s supposed to stop us from doing things like this,” Bryant said.

In order to continue developing his fitness and improving his quality of life, Bryant decided to get involved with triathlon.

“Fitness has become incredibly important to me the last several years as my disease progresses and threatens to take away more of my abilities,” Bryant said.

He relearned how to swim; took his first pushrim cycle clinic to practice using a racing wheelchair for the “run”; and continued riding his recumbent trike, only to find out that he wasn’t allowed to race in 2013 due to the strict paratriathlon classification system.

For Bryant, the addition of PC Open rules will allow him to reach a new milestone and add triathlon to his list of many accomplishments. In 2014, he’s got his eye on the Atlantic City International Triathlon.

Bryant is grateful for the changes USA Triathlon has made to make the sport more accessible and can’t wait to compete in his first triathlon.

“Living with any physical disability can be an incredibly lonely situation. When we are all on the course giving it everything we’ve got, differences melt away. We all have the same goal and we will all get there one way or another,” Bryant said.

Triathlon as a Way of Life

Donna DeWick also uses triathlon as a way to manage her health — and she’s thrilled that the new rules will allow her to race again.

“In implementing PC Open, USA Triathlon is taking a leading role in developing grassroots participation in paratriathlon,” DeWick said. “With more participants in paratriathlon, we can develop a more competitive playing field.”

donna dewick
Donna DeWick raced in the Egg Hunt Triathlon in 2013 and looks forward to officially competing in the PC Open Division in 2014. (Photo by Cynthia Lawrence)
DeWick shied away from sports as a child as her body just wouldn’t cooperate. From many dislocated knees to knee surgery, something wasn’t right.

After pain from walking a charity half marathon in 2003, DeWick was diagnosed with two chronic conditions: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a progressive degenerative nerve condition, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, hypermobility type, a connective tissue disorder. Being active is the only treatment.

She participated in her first triathlon in 2007 as a way to exercise her whole body. And over the years, her dedicated training regimen has made her stronger.

“As a consequence today, I do not meet the minimum impairment thresholds for participation as a classified paratriathlete,” DeWick said. “However, that doesn’t mean that I do not have physical challenges.”

DeWick’s personal journey and her charity work with the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association, have demonstrated the importance of being active, no matter what challenges you face. Triathlon and distance swimming have been critical to her well-being.

“Absolutely anyone can do sport,” DeWick said. “No matter who we are or what challenges we face, through an active, healthy lifestyle, we can all radically improve our quality of life.”

DeWick knows she may not have much time left in triathlon due to a degenerative knee, but she plans on making the most of her experiences this year. With a focus on fun, she’ll be competing in the Egg Hunt Triathlon in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and ITU World Triathlon Chicago, among other events. She looks forward to sharing the joy of the sport and racing side by side with athletes who face a wide range of disabilities.

For more information on the PC Open Division guidelines, please visit usatriathlon.org/rulebook.

Related Topics

Paratriathlon

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