HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – On Sunday over 100 athletes finished their journey at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in a selection event to represent Team USA in Belgium. Among those competing were members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
The road to the Olympics is difficult for most athletes, whether it’s training or injury, the athletes face many obstacles, and coming off of a pandemic some of those obstacles were even greater.
Jody Shiflett, Director of Racing and Fitness for the Paralyzed Veterans of America says this weekend’s qualifier was a breath of fresh air for the athletes.
“These are individuals that happen to be on our team and they’re aspiring, well some of them were aspiring, to be selected to go to Belgium. But many of them were just looking for a race opportunity because we haven’t had that opportunity for over a year at this point,” Shiflett said.
Athletes had been preparing since Tuesday – when they started to arrive, through COVID-19 testing and then practice on the course. Shiflett said it was a long week for competitors, “We had to participate in the COVID protocols, which was new for us,” but Shiflett added they had no problem doing so.
“We’re happy to do that if it means we can get some racing in. So, what we’ve done here, the most important thing is, is to exercise safely and to reintegrate ourselves into this opportunity because the future is this, at least for the short term.”
In 1946 the United States Congress chartered the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Their main goal is to supply opportunities to paralyzed veterans, “Be it through what I deliver, which is sports and recreation, and we help veterans get back into the workplace, veterans rights benefits and all of the like,” Shiflett said.
Athletes from the PVA team competed both days and while many may not have qualified, Shiflett says many of them were just happy to be there and were appreciative of the City of Huntsville.
“I just want to go out and thank the citizens here of Huntsville and Northern Alabama because this was well received and we appreciate the opportunity and that you opened up your doors for us to come here.”
Results of the weekend races can be found here and if you’re a veteran who would like to participate in activities or get involved with the Paralyzed Veterans of America team, visit their website here.