Passing word: `Disabled,' sports go together

Paralympic, other athletes bring message to soldiers

Notebook

Olympics

April 04, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The clinic for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center on Wednesday night had nothing to do with doctors.

Members of past and present U.S. Paralympic squads and other wheelchair athletes buzzed up and down the hardwood at Wagner Sports Center to make a point: Sports can be part of your life no matter what your disability.

"This is life beginning again," said John Register, who won the silver medal in the long jump at the 2000 Paralympics after an injury forced the amputation of his left leg. "That's what we want to show these soldiers. Life goes on."

Register was a three-time All-American at the University of Arkansas and a two-time Olympic qualifier in the hurdles. While training for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he landed awkwardly and twisted his left knee, severing an artery. Attempts to repair the damage failed, and his leg was amputated.

Register was joined by a number of top athletes, including Bill Demby of Prince George's County, who lost both legs in the Vietnam War and is a three-time Paralympian, and Susan Katz of Silver Spring, who competed in track and field in the 1996 Paralympics and will go to Athens this year on the women's basketball team.

For injured soldiers such as Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly, the visit reinforced their rehabilitation efforts.

Kelly, who lost his right foot in July when an explosive device ripped through his Humvee in Fallujah, Iraq, played wheelchair basketball for the first time during the clinic.

"This is a terrific program," he said, as his wife, Sgt. Lindsey Kelly, photographed the game.

Since arriving at Walter Reed last summer, Kelly has begun swimming, weightlifting and, more recently, running. He went skiing in Vail, Colo., three weeks ago and hopes to return to rock climbing and kayaking with his wife.

Are the Paralympics in his future?

"And play against guys like these?" he said, pointing to the court. "I don't think so."

The thumping and hollering of competition made Register smile. "When you see an athlete run 100 meters in under 11 seconds and then you look down and see he has no foot, that's a story of success," he said.

Cayard back in race

It only took Paul Cayard two decades to return to the U.S. sailing team. Other things kept getting in the way, such as the 1998 Whitbread Round the World Race and the 2000 America's Cup competition.

But once he found the time, it didn't take him long to knock the rust off his Olympic instincts.

With crew Phil Trinter, Cayard won the Star class at the team trials on Biscayne Bay in Florida last weekend in the 16-race qualifying event, winning four races and finishing no worse than sixth in a field of 21 teams that included three with gold medalists. They mathematically clinched the Olympic berth with two races to go on the final day.

Cayard, 44, from Kentfield, Calif., and Trinter, 35, from Lorain, Ohio, have been sailing together for the past two years. The two met during the America's Cup and used some of the lessons learned from that high-pressure competition in the Star trials.

The skipper estimated that he spent $100,000 to prepare for the trials, calling the Olympics "his goal for a while now."

This year marked Cayard's fourth team trials (he also competed in 1984, when he was named an alternate, and 1988 and 1996). For Trinter, it was his third trip ('96 and '00).

Cayard was the first American skipper to win the Whitbread, now known as the Volvo Ocean Race, on EF Language.

No field hockey for U.S.

Add women's field hockey to the list of events that the United States will not be participating in come August.

The U.S. squad needed to beat Korea last weekend in the Olympic qualifying tournament in New Zealand. It lost, 4-0.

"There are a lot of dreams shattered today," coach Beth Anders said after the loss.

One of the disappointed athletes was midfielder Katie Kauff-man Beach, a 1997 graduate of Maryland and a member of its 1993 NCAA championship team.

For Beach, the New Zealand debacle must have felt like deja vu. She was on the 2000 team that faced a similar must-win situation at the Olympic qualifier and fell, 2-0, to China. At the time, Beach called it the low point in her athletic career.

Beach, a member of the 1996 Olympic team, was joined in misery by two other Maryland graduates: forward Dina Rizzo (2002) and forward Keli Smith (2001). All three were starters on the U.S. squad.

In addition to Korea, the field in Athens will consist of Argentina, Australia, China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and Spain.

The men's baseball and soccer teams also have failed to qualify for the Summer Games.

Good shooting

Collyn Loper, a 17-year-old high school junior from Alabama, showed a cool hand at the shooting team trials, beating a member of the Army Marksmanship Unit to win a place on the shotgun team.

Loper, a right-hander, was born blind in her right eye and trained herself to shoot as a left-hander. She defeated Staff Sgt. Joetta Dement by one target in a 25-target tiebreaker round.

The competition was held at Fort Benning, Ga.

Games at a glance

When: Aug. 13-29

Where: Athens, Greece

Sports: 28

Countries: 202

Athletes: 10,500

Events: 296

TV: NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo

Web site: www.athens2004.com

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