The Role of the World Wheelchair Sports Organization
Ask any disabled athlete if they would jump at the chance to compete against able-bodied athletes, and they would probably give you an emphatic "Yes!" Whether it's crossing the finish line in a track meet, or kayaking on the river, having the opportunity to participate in the same athletic activity as an able-bodied person is the goal of disabled athletes everywhere.
That's also the goal of World Wheelchair Sports (WWS), an organization dedicated to providing outdoor activities for people with mobility impairments. Founded in 1990 and based in Eugene, Oregon, World Wheelchair Sports believes physical fitness is vital to everyone, regardless of disability.
People of all ages throughout the Pacific Northwest take part in track and field, road racing, cycling, kayaking, and other sports and recreational activities.
Best of all, many of these activities have been set up to allow disabled individuals to compete with and against their able-bodied peers.
The track program, led by Executive Director and former Paralympic track coach Kevin Hansen, has produced many Olympic and Paralympic medalists who have set world and national records.
Over the past several years, the organization has coordinated various wheelchair track events, including the first ever exhibition race at the 2002 State High School Track Championships, and the annual Oregon Regional wheelchair track and field championships.
Another sport which allows disabled athletes to join their able-bodied counterparts is sailing. The WWS, in conjunction with Disabled Sailing of Oregon, offers both accompanied and solo sailing activities and lessons.
Wheels In Nature (WIN) brings children and adults in wheelchairs together with those who aren't through muscle powered outdoor adventures.
Each summer, WIN conducts youth camps in kayaking, wheelchair court sports and racing, sailing, fishing, hand cycling, and a special Arts In Nature Day. Longer outings include day trips to wildlife refuges and overnight campouts in some of Oregon's national forests.
Funding is provided through membership and entry fees, donations, and grants. Members come from many different backgrounds and levels of disability.
Hansen, who became a quadriplegic following a snow skiing accident, thought his athletic days were over until he was able to acquire one of the first lightweight aluminum sports chairs to be mass-produced in the U.S.
Some participants are older people and have suffered a stroke or severe arthritis, while others are born with disabling conditions that leaves them paraplegics or double amputees.
Yet thanks to the programs of WWS, these individuals can experience the thrill of athletic competition, or the freedom to enjoy recreational activities in a more relaxed environment.
The chance to share these experiences with those who are not in a wheelchair gives them an even greater feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. For more information, visit the WWS organization's Facebook page by clicking here: World Wheelchair Sports.
This article was written by Stephen Michael Kerr, publisher of Adaptive Sports & Recreation.
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