University of Illinois announced as Paralympic Training Site

By Beth Bourgeois | Sept. 26, 2014, 11:27 a.m. (ET)
 
USOC Board member and Paralympic Advisory Committee Chairman Jim Benson, BP Senior Vice President Corey Correnti, University of Illinois Dean Dr. Tanya Gallagher, University of Illinois Chancellor Dr. Phyllis Wise, DRES founder Dr. Tim Nugent, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, 11-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden and University of Illinois and U.S. Paralympic wheelchair racing coach Adam Bleakney at the announcement of the University of Illinois as a U.S. Paralympic Training Site.

CHICAGO, Ill. – At today’s U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly, the United States Olympic Committee and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced an agreement designating the university as a U.S. Paralympic Training Site. The distinction was given to the Division of Disability Resources & Educational Services, which is part of the College of Applied Health Sciences at Illinois. The DRES venues, staff and resources will provide an elite athlete training environment for current and aspiring Paralympic track and field athletes.

“We are pleased to support the University of Illinois and its dynamic wheelchair program in a more formal manner,” said Cathy Sellers, U.S. Paralympics track and field high performance director. “The program has produced many Paralympic athletes who’ve reached the podium and we look forward to its continued success.”

The university’s wheelchair track and field program is synonymous with Paralympic athletic achievement and has helped produce several elite athletes, including Jean Driscoll, Sharon Hedrick and Shawn Meredith.

At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, athletes from the university’s wheelchair track and field program accounted for 10 out of the total 28 U.S. track and field medals won – including three gold medals and one bronze from 2014 Illinois graduate Tatyana McFadden – and four gold medals from Raymond Martin, who is currently a junior at the university.

The university’s wheelchair track and field program is led by Adam Bleakney, who was named the USOC’s Paralympic National Coach of the Year in 2013. Bleakney is a silver Paralympic medalist and a four-time U.S. Paralympian.

There are 22 athletes currently training at Illinois, including 12 U.S. Paralympians, six Paralympic medalists and four gold medalists. Collectively, the 22 athletes own four world records, and three have been nominated for ESPY awards and have won the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City marathons.

The training facility measures 2,100 square feet and boasts specialized equipment such as roller stations, Nordic ski ergs and weights, most of which was made possible through the support of sponsor BP, which donated $160,000 for the creation of the new training site.

“We are excited about the opportunity to deepen our relationship with the United States Olympic Committee by becoming one of its elite Paralympic training facilities,” said Tanya Gallagher, dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences. “Since athletes from our program at Illinois participated in the first Paralympic Games we have had a sustained commitment to the world-wide recognition and celebration of athletic ability that these games represent. We are honored to have been selected as a training site and for the support we received from BP.”

“As a proud partner of the United States Olympic Committee, BP is honored to support the establishment of what we believe will be the top Paralympic wheelchair racing training facility in the world,” said Corey Correnti, BP’s Chicago-based vice president of marketing, sales and supply. “We’re very excited to lend our support to this world-class wheelchair racing program at the University of Illinois.