Let the Games Begin, Wheelchair Athletes in Tampa

The finish line for the first event, hand-cycling, was an inflatable arch outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Photo credit: Bobbie O'Brien

The finish line for the first event, hand-cycling, was an inflatable arch outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Photo credit: Bobbie O’Brien

This week, the Tampa Bay region is hosting more than 600 elite athletes, their coaches and families.

Opening ceremonies for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games were held this weekend at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Outside, under an inflatable arch, the first event, a hand-cycling race for 5K and 10K, started and finished.

The hand-cycling race, 5K and 10K, included crossing the Cass Street Bridge then on to Bayshore Boulevard. Photo credit: Bobbie O'Brien

The hand-cycling race, 5K and 10K, included crossing the Platt Street Bridge then on to Bayshore Boulevard. Photo credit: Bobbie O’Brien

The race included a wide range of athletes many speedsters in sleek, low-riding track chairs and others with more severe physical disabilities cycled in upright chairs.

Their hardest challenge was the rise to get over the Platt Street Bridge. That’s where volunteer Kendra Richgels was explaining to her  two  daughters that hand-cycling isn’t as easy as it looks

“Try to do a push up,” Richgels teased her daughter who admitted she couldn’t. “See you’ve got to have a lot of upper body strength.”

Richgel said she is among hundreds from Citibank employees  volunteering to help with the Games.

The final athlete takes on the rise at Cass Street Bridge as she heads to the finish line. Photo credit: Bobbie O'Brien

The final athlete takes on the rise at Platt Street Bridge as she heads to the finish line. Photo credit: Bobbie O’Brien

“A member of our team, his son is in Afghanistan right now so my whole team has come out for Global Community Day and we support the veterans in general,” Richgels said.

Also stationed on the Platt Street Bridge for the race was Ron Evia, one of several Hillsborough County Fire Fighters volunteering for the Games.

“We definitely support our veterans and I’m a veteran myself,” Evia said. “I feel a need – it’s actually my duty – to help out serve these guys as the served us.”

The National  Veterans Wheelchair Games run through Thursday – all events are free and open to the public.

Monday morning events include air guns at the Marriot in downtown Tampa, track at Tampa’s Jefferson High School and a water skiing exhibition at Pinellas County’s Lake Seminole Park.

The athlete raises her arms in victory having made it over the bridge as she coasts downhill toward the finish line a few blocks away. Photo credit: Bobbie O'Brien

The athlete raises her arms in victory having made it over the bridge as she coasts downhill toward the finish line a few blocks away. Photo credit: Bobbie O’Brien

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2 Responses

  1. Let te games begin to see the best athletes, to see people who love so games at olimpic levels to surmont any dificulties, to make visible how handicap are on reality excellent qualities, to see, and this is the top, MEN of high level, we plaude for the teching they done us, and this lesson is superlative. for that we honor and thanks them. the games be claudio alpaca

  2. Reblogged this on Taking On A Cause by Patsy McCaw-Yager,Englewood, Fl. and commented:
    Please support these patriots!

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