Athletes With Disabilities Take Center Stage at Extremity Games 6

Four athletes hid behind their sunglasses before the
wakeboarding elite competition at Lake Dunlap in New Braunfels, Texas. It was
just before 8 a.m., and the coffee had yet to kick in for the lounging
competitors. The boat slowly swayed from side to side as a photographer,
driver, judge and a physical therapist hopped aboard to join them in the back
of the boat. With all passengers on board, the engine grunted and the boat was
launched. As it built up speed, the athletes’ conversations turned from
how tired they were to comparisons between the best places to board, their most
memorable tricks and their biggest fails.

Wakeboarder Billy Tonis, in desperate need for music,
served as house DJ and gradually turned up the volume on his iPod as the boat
reached the competition area. World-renowned adaptive wakeboarder and
transtibial amputee Sean Reyngoudt stood up, tied his rope,
strapped his right foot and left prosthesis into his board and jumped back
first into the water. They were all up now. It was time to ride.

  Billy Tonis (left) and Mike Schultz (right)
  Last year, Billy Tonis (left) won
the wakeboarding event with Mike Schultz (right) finishing in second
  Images: Calabro A, O&P
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Wakeboarding competition

Athletes Mike Schultz and Mike Krohn competed alongside
Reyngoudt and Tonis, last year’s wakeboarding champion, at the
wakeboarding elite competition held on Saturday, June 25. Wakeboarding was the
first competition of the day, which included events in mountain biking,
skateboarding, kayaking and rock climbing at Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels,

  Sean Reyngoudt
  Sean Reyngoudt is widely
considered the world’s only professional kiteboarder and wakeboarder.

After a warm-up run, each athlete was allotted 10
minutes to perform and show off their tricks as the judge on the boat scored
them. Reyngoudt, who also excels in professional kiteboarding, was a natural in
the water and scored some high marks with his ability to spin, flip and twist
his body in the air while switching the handlebar from his right hand to his
left behind his back.

“This guy is a beast,” Krohn said.
“He’s making this look effortless.”

Born in Switzerland but raised in the Florida Keys,
Reyngoudt was technically sound and landed most of the jumps in his 10-minute
heat. The next competitor was Tonis, an
Extremity Games veteran and former champion from Northern
California about 30 minutes from the Delta, where he regularly boards. A
motorcycle accident left Tonis with a severe brachial plexus injury causing
paralysis in his right arm. He has no feeling from the elbow down, so he holds
the handlebar with his left hand and tucks his right arm into his shirt to
avoid additional injury if he crashes. Tonis was the highest flyer of the day,
slowly drifting his board to the far right of the boat before making a sharp
high-speed cut toward the boat’s wake. In the air, he bent his legs and
brought the board close to his chest while twisting his body and holding onto
the handlebar with one hand, ultimately making a smooth landing.

“He goes so big,” Schultz said.

Schultz from Pilager, Minn., is an avid motocross and
snowcross racer but entered the wakeboarding elite competition and performed
admirably. Though impressed with his run, passengers and competitors on the
boat were more amazed with Schultz’s lower extremity prosthesis, which he
built himself, without any formal engineering training, in his home garage.

“I just needed something more durable,”
Schultz said. “It’s working pretty well today.”

Krohn finished the wakeboarding competition with a great
run of his own. Krohn lost his left arm from the elbow down after a jet ski
accident. Like Tonis, Krohn held the handlebar with his right hand and got some
big air in the day’s final run — nearly landing the Scarecrow, a
toe-side front flip to a switch, landing heel side.

Reyngoudt took home first place, Tonis finished second,
and Schultz finished third.

  Stephen Shope
  Extremity Games athletes and
volunteers cheered for Stephen Shope as he competed in the Shoe City Skate

Mountain biking and skateboarding

Andy May won the mountain biking below-knee competition.
May, a competitive mountain biker and cyclocross racer, has been a transtibial
amputee since 2000, when a driver ran a red light and crashed into his
motorcycle. Greg Lakomski came in second, with Chad Crittenden coming in third
place. In the above-knee mountain biking competition, Stephen Buchler took
first prize. Carlos Garcia finished second, and Pete O’Brien came in

In the skateboarding competition, Stephen Shope, last
year’s first-prize winner, took home the gold in the Shoe City Skate Jam.
Shope, a bilateral upper extremity amputee, showcased his tricks on the
half-pipe and rails as Extremity Games athletes and volunteers cheered him on.

  Jeff Waldmuller (right)
  Jeff Waldmuller (right) won the
men’s kayaking novice competition and the rock climbing elite competition
at Extremity Games 6.


The kayaking competition featured the men’s elite
and novice competitions, as well as a women’s event. In the kayaking
men’s elite competition, Schultz, who was a third-place winner earlier in
the day in the wakeboarding elite competition, summoned the strength to take
first place, just ahead of second-place finisher Mike Schulenberg. In the
kayaking men’s novice competition, Jeff Waldmuller won the event, edging
out second-place finisher, Brandon Holiday, and third-place finisher, Alex

In the women’s competition, last year’s
first-place winner Kelly Allen successfully defended her title by beating out
second-place finisher Brooke Artesi and third-place finisher Patty Long. Allen
confessed her love for all of the Extremity Games’ athletes but joked that
when the competition begins, “it is all about the hardware.”

scaled the wall. Each competitor was timed climbing the left side, right side
and center of the wall. The competitor with the fastest combined time would win
the event. Waldmuller won the rock climbing elite competition — his second
gold of the competition. In second place was Miller, who dazzled the audience
with his ability to ascend the rock climbing wall with one leg, as he jumped
from peg to peg. Kimberly Olson took home third place after successfully
reaching the top of the wall in all three races.

In the rock climbing novice competition, Horst Behner
improved from last year’s third-place finish to win the novice event.
Brooke Artesi came in second, and Greg Dotson finished third.


On Friday, June 24, the day before the competition,
amputees interested in participating in sports attended clinics and
exhibitions, during which they demonstrated their perseverance, desire and
passion for their respective sports in front of a large number of spectators.

Upper extremity amputee Lucio Guerra showed off his
brute strength and power lifting ability by demonstrating how he bench pressed
with essentially one hand. Guerra would grip the bar with his left hand and
balance the bar on his right residual limb, repeatedly lifting more than 100 lb
in front of an amazed crowd.

Nearby, Holiday displayed his mixed martial arts moves while teaching
the proper way to take down an opponent on the mat. On the ground for most of
the demonstration, Holiday showed his audience how an amputee can attack and
manipulate the opponent using a combination of strength and agility. Other
clinics included wakeboarding, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and
skateboarding. — Anthony Calabro

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  Craig DeMartino
  Rock climbing elite and novice
participants were instructed and guided by expert rock climber and transtibial
amputee Craig DeMartino (left).
August 2011
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