NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — A mix of seasoned veterans and first-time competitors gathered at the Texas Ski Ranch for Extremity Games, an extreme adaptive sports competition for athletes with limb loss and limb difference, held June 14-15.
Encouraging athletes with the tagline “There’s No Replacement for the Competitive Spirit,” the weekend-long event hosted by the Athletes with Disabilities Network offers more than just an outlet for competitors to demonstrate their athletic prowess. Now in its eighth year, Extremity Games offers a community where athletes of all abilities can gather and learn from one another while forging competitive rivalries, as well as deep friendships.
The Main Event
The Main Event kicked off on Friday with instructional clinics in wakeboarding, mountain biking, skateboarding, rock climbing and kayaking, and interested participants learned tips and techniques from expert athletes and coaches. There was also a mixed martial arts demonstration, as well as an exhibition basketball game led by the AMP1 basketball team, a team of lower limb amputee players who play stand-up basketball against able-bodied competitors.
Images: Gilbride M, O& P Business News
The official competition began Friday night with the skateboarding portion of the event. The skaters were given a 10-minute jam session to show off their best tricks. Extremity Games veteran Oscar Loreto, last year’s bronze medalist, earned the gold, with Stephen Shope and Justin Beauchesne in second and third place, respectively.
The second day of the Main Event started with the mountain bike race. Competing in either the transtibial or transfemoral division, the bikers raced 10 laps of the winding course. In the transtibial division, Andy May easily pedaled his way to first place, winning the race for the third consecutive year. May was trailed by Ruben Macias in second and Greg Lakowski in third. In the transfemoral division, Mike Schultz secured the first place finish. He was followed by Peter O’Brien in second, who impressed the crowd by finishing nine of the 10 laps with only one leg after his prosthesis popped off during the first lap of the race.
Following the mountain biking event, the crowd headed to the lake as the kayakers hit the water. Including men’s novice and elite divisions and a women’s elite division, this event had one of the largest athlete groups of the day. The kayakers raced a 200-m stretch, and finalists were determined by the best times from the preliminary heats.
In the women’s division, Kelly Allen powered her way to first with a finish time of 57 seconds. Allen, a congenital transfemoral amputee due to proximal femoral focal deficiency Type D, is currently training for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. Allen was followed by Brooke Artesi in second and Katherine McCravey in third.
In the men’s elite division, transradial amputee David Etier battled his way to a first place finish with defending champion Jeff Waldmuller trailing closely in second. Jim Wazny followed Etier and Waldmuller in third. The men’s novice division was also a close race with Antonio Cruz in first place, David Baldenegro in second and Kevin Messner in third.
As the kayakers finished on the lake, the powerlifters got ready to lift. Each competitor attempted three lifts over the course of the competition. Kedgrerick Smith, who is paralyzed from the waist down, earned the gold with an impressive lift of 350 pounds. John Pepin took silver for the second consecutive year.
Rock climbing and wakeboarding
Rock climbing was the fourth event of the day. Each climber was given two attempts, and the best times were averaged to determine who would advance to the final round. Amidst a tough group of competitors, Waldmuller, Alex Miller and Matt Hawkins emerged as the finalists. Miller, a transfemoral amputee, showed impressive skill as he climbed the wall with only one leg in 15 seconds. However, Waldmuller, who took home a bronze medal in the event last year, was able to scale the wall in only 13.37 seconds, securing his first place finish. Hawkins, who had competed in the skateboarding competition the previous day, took home bronze.
In the women’s division, Brooke Artesi earned her second medal of the day by edging out Katherine McCravey to secure the first place finish.
At the conclusion of the rock climbing competition, the crowd headed back to the lake for wakeboarding, the final event of the day. The divisions were categorized into novice, elite and sitdown, and in the preliminary round, each competitor was given 5 minutes on the water to land their best moves. The scores from the preliminary heat determined the order in which the competitors would appear in the final round, which involved one final run, two lengths of the lake. Each boarder was entitled to one fall.
Heading into the final round, transhumeral amputee Logan Aldridge, last year’s bronze medalist, was in the lead for the elite division. However, during his final run, the bindings on his wakeboard snapped off while landing a jump. He finished the rest of his run on a borrowed board but was unable to regain his momentum and catch defending champion Sean Reyngoudt, who won the competition for the third consecutive year. Billy Tonis, another Extremity Games veteran, secured a second place finish for the second consecutive year, and Mike Schultz, who had already earned a gold medal earlier in the day during the bike race, joined them on the podium in third place. Schultz, a transfemoral amputee resulting from a snowcross accident, also raced in the motocross portion of the competition, which was held on May 25 at Baja Acres in Millington, Mich., and earned a silver medal in the stand-up lower extremity division.
In the sitboarding division, first-time competitor Angel Gonzalez landed a 360° to secure the first place finish. He was followed by Ron Gully in second. In the novice division, Nathan Beels took first after landing an ollie. Beels was also the only skurfboarder, a hybrid of wakeboarding and surfing in which the rider rides a surf board without being strapped to the board. Beels was trailed by Mike Rousselle in second and Wazny in third. Wazny, in his second competition of the day, also competed in the motocross race in May.
All of the athletes in the elite divisions earned cash prizes, and the athletes in the novice divisions earned prizes including gift cards and athletic apparel and equipment. — by Megan Gilbride