Amputee athletes showed off their skills and abilities in front of large crowds of supporters at the 4th annual Extremity Games (eX4). Amputees from around the world gathered from July 9-11 to participate in extreme sporting events held across the state of Michigan. Along with amputee athletes from all across the United States, eX4 drew representation from Germany, France and South America. Organized by the national nonprofit organization Extremity Events Network, eX4 highlighted the passion and persistence of amateur amputee athletes through sporting events, competitions, exhibitions and instructional clinics.
The opening ceremony for eX4 was held on July 8 at the Holiday Inn in Flint, Mich. On July 9, the skateboarding event opened the competition at the South Street Skate Park in Rochester, Mich. Skateboarder Oscar Loreto took home the gold. In a repeat of last year’s event, the silver medal went to Evan Strong and Garry Moore claimed the bronze.
“The skill level was incredibly high in all of the events this year,” Beth Geno, executive director of the Athletes with Disabilities Network said. “And the competition level was the best it has ever been at the Games.”
Also in July, Planet Rock in Pontiac, Mich. hosted the rock climbing competitions. In the women’s top rope event, McKayla Hanson improved upon her 2008 bronze medal winning performance and took the gold. Placing second was 2008 gold medal winner Cara Fortunato and Jacquelyn Ferris finished with the bronze. In the men’s top rope event, Craig DeMartino followed up his 2008 Extremity Games gold medal feat with another gold medal this year. Experienced climbers Ronnie Dickson and Tyler Adams took the silver and bronze respectively.
Three medal winners from earlier competitions took the podium in the men’s bouldering competition. Skilled climber DeMartino battled last year’s gold medal earner, Dickson for the top prize. DeMartino came away victorious as the gold medal winner in the men’s bouldering event, giving him two gold medals at the Games. After placing second in the top rope event, Dickson claimed his second silver of the day at the bouldering event. Following his silver-medal-winning performance at his skateboarding event at the South Street Skate Park, Strong raced over to Planet Rock, entered the bouldering event and took home the bronze medal.
On July 10, the water sports portion of eX4 kicked off at Holloway Reservoir Regional Park in Davison, Mich. Unlike other eX4 events where past winners dominated the podium, the wakeboarding and kayaking events featured a new generation of medal winners.
Early reports of rain threatened the weekends’ events, including the wakeboarding and kayaking competitions. However, with the sun still shining, Jim Bob Bizzell clinched the gold in the wakeboarding event, Connor Howe nabbed the silver and Chet Kuskowski claimed the bronze.
In the kayaking competition, Kelly Allen bested Fortunato to win the gold medal. Fortunato was awarded her second silver of the games and Brooke Artesi took home the bronze. For the men, Joel Berman won the event with George Rickman and Chris Casteel earning second and third respectively.
Mountain biking and motocross
Baja MX in Millington, Mich. hosted the motocross and mountain biking competitions. They marked the final day of eX4. The athletes refused to let an early morning downpour damage their focus. In the mountain biking event, Anthony Zukowski earned the gold medal after placing second last year in the same event. The silver medal was awarded to Chad Crittenden and Stephan Buchler won the bronze. In the motocross light event, George Hammel took home the gold with Theodore Hiracheta and Sampie Erasmus taking the silver and bronze respectively. In the motocross premier competition, Extremity Games veteran and last year’s first place winner, Chris Ridgway claimed the gold medal. Mike Schultz finished with the silver and Jason Woods took home the bronze.
Support and success
Following the conclusion of the competitive events and the martial arts open forms exhibition, the Games wrapped up with a closing ceremony and an awards presentation featuring all the athletes participating in eX4. The winning athletes took the stage to accept their medals and prizes in front of their family, friends and supporters.
“With the economy the way it is, we expected a little drop off in participation, but we still had 80 athletes participate this year and hundreds and hundreds of spectators,” Geno said. “It was a tremendous success.”
Geno pointed to the amazing camaraderie the athletes have for one another as the main reason for the event’s continued success. Despite the competition, the athletes have the utmost respect for each other and always cheer on other amputees.
Building off that success, Geno and the Extremity Games Network plan on meeting to discuss what was successful and what could be done to make the Extremity Games even better.
“This was without a doubt the smoothest games in its four years of existence,” Geno explained. “We were worried about the weather but everything was great. The Games are really starting to come into its own.”
Anthony Calabro is a staff reporter for O&P Business News.