HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The U.S. Paralympic Cycling Open has returned to Huntsville! While organizers celebrate bringing another high profile event to the Rocket City for the second consecutive year, athletes who’ve already overcome obstacles are eager to make their mark.
“We are a military community. We know what kind of sacrifice goes into serving our country so you see some of these athletes out here competing with what they’ve been through in their service,” said Claire Aiello of Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. “You’re going to be inspired watching them power through this course. You’ll see them power through the cycles that they use. I am inspired every time I get to come to this event, and I encourage the public to come and watch these athletes and cheer them on.”
From a fan perspective it’s easy to root for just about anyone.
“I love to race my bike and I love Huntsville, and it’s been such a fun experience being here last year that I’m looking forward to racing this year,” paracyclist Samantha Bosco told News 19 on Friday.
“Disabled sports is really something right off the bat that enabled me to be free, enabled me to challenge myself and be able to get myself to grow physically, and so it’s just been a huge blessing in my life,” Travis Gaertner added.
UNA alumnus and Pan-American para-athlete gold medalist Roderick Sewell is likely to be a fan-favorite among locals as he debuts in the cycling nationals in his home state.
“I’ve been training for nine months alone, and to be at a race where I have my competitors also friends, (and) to be riding along with them in the same bikes in the same heat – it’s kind of what we’ve been getting together for,” Sewell said. “It’s what we’ve been training for awhile, so it’s exciting to see what we can do.”
No matter how the races finish, many of the athletes are happy to compete and inspire.
“To find something that you truly love is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I think everybody should have the opportunity to try something regardless of their race, their gender, or their ability to do something,” Bosco said.
“We’re competing for (fellow para-athletes) too, to just be here and encourage them to keep going and to keep trying,” Gaertner said.
“I hope people see that and are really recognizing their own potential,” Sewell said.