In a push to gain exposure for the U.S. disabled cross country team, team officials made a special trip to San Diego for the Triathlon Challenge, a half-Ironman distance event featuring world-class disabled athletes, professional triathletes and celebrities.
IN A PUSH to gain exposure for the U.S. disabled cross country team, head coach Jon Kreamelmeyer and program director Sandy Metzger made a special trip to San Diego, California, for the Triathlon Challenge, a half-Ironman distance event featuring world-class disabled athletes, professional triathletes and celebrities.
The event, which took place on Sunday, is the primary fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which over the past 13 years has helped raise more than $8 million to support disabled athletes.
"Last year was my first year attending and it was an amazing event," Kreamelmeyer said. "We got into it on the recommendation of former team athlete Willie Stewart, who competes in the race. Willie said, 'Come on out and see if you can find a few potential athletes,' so we did and it has also become a great opportunity for us to gain more exposure for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team."
Stewart, a three-time Paralympian, works at the Loma Linda Medical Center in California with PossAbilities, an outreach program for the disabled. Kreamelmeyer said he and Metzger were able to share a booth with Loma Linda inside the events exibition area.
On top of the race, individuals participated in the Tour de Cove, a 100 bike spin-a-thon overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Visitors could make a pledge to other riders or pay to ride one of the stationary bikes in support of the CAF.
"It was a great learning experience for us," Kreamelmeyer said. "We made contact with a couple of potential athletes, which can be hard in our sport. There is no development pipeline for disabled skiers, most of our athletes have never skied a day in their life before finding our sport. That's the uniqueness and difficulty of recruiting athletes, and this event is a great place for us to look."
Kreamelmeyer also said he and Metzger learned of the Extremity Games in Orlando, California, a summer event featuring disabled athletes competing in sports like BMX racing, skateboarding, wakeboarding, rock climbing and surfing.
"We're definitely going to look into that event. It sounds like it would have the type of athletes, who would be interested in finding an alternative sport for the winter months," Kreamelmeyer said. "It's all about finding new ways to bring awareness to our program and find the next Paralympic medalists. We need to reach out to places where other people are trying to do the same things we are."
Plans for next year include the possibility of entering a group of Ski Team athletes to participate in the team portion of the Triathlon Challenge.
The disabled cross country World Cup opens Jan. 11 in Vuokatti, Finland.