Monday, May 6, 2013

Athletes Without Limits

Athletes Without Limits from Damone Brown Images.

Since moving to DC last fall, I've had the opportunity to get involved with an incredible club and organization: Athletes Without Limits. For rowing, AWL supports both athletes with intellectual disabilities and veterans who are a part of the U.S. Paralympic Military Rowing Program, rowing out of the Anacostia Community Boathouse and training at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Capitol Hill Martial Arts and Fitness Academy.

Our recent Military Adaptive Sports Program Rowing Clinic at Walter Reed!

Did you know that there were 42 medals awarded in sports specifically for athletes with intellectual disabilities at the London 2012 Paralympic Games? The U.S. sent only one ID competitor. The 2012 Paralympics consisted of 503 events, and while the U.S. won an impressive 98 medals--including the AWL-supported Rob Jones and Oksana Masters trunk and arms mixed double sculls crew that took bronze--we lagged far behind China's 231. Much more important than comparing numbers, though, is our country giving intellectually disabled and physically disabled athletes opportunities to train and compete. Athletes Without Limits does just that, and it has been an amazing experience this year to work with the athletes training towards the 2016 Rio Paralympics and for the World Championships and domestic competitions in the meantime.

Training with some of our ID guys before Erg Sprints this year!

Besides indoor and on-the water training, AWL also partners with the rehabilitation and gym facilities at Walter Reed National Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethesda, MD to bring rowing to veterans as part of their physical rehabilitation program. It's made me appreciate rowing in an entirely different light--getting to see an athlete become passionate about rowing as it gives them the physical activity, the limit-pushing, and the personal confidence that they weren't sure they'd find in another sport after injury. This article gives a great veteran's perspective on the rowing and other sports programs at Walter Reed.

Coxing as Justin brings the BOOM! to the MidAtlantic Erg Sprints.

To learn more about how you can get involved with intellectually- and physically disabled-focused rowing programs, visit USRowing and Athletes Without Limits. We're all one team. Go USA!

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