Paralympic athletes and hopefuls pose for a group photo at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, during the Quick Start Development Camp held from September 28-29, 2018.
Athletes from around the country arrived in Colorado Springs this past weekend for the opportunity to train with elite Paralympic athletes.
The Olympic Training Center hosted the U.S. Paralympics Quick Start Development Camp from Sept. 28-29 for Paralympic hopefuls to learn from current powerlifting and track and field athletes.
Athletes participated in powerlifting, shot put, discus, and javelin at the Ted Stevens Center. Natalie Bieule (Pembroke Pines, Florida), Josh Cinnamo (Lakeville, Minnesota) and David Page (Jacksonville, Florida) served as athlete ambassadors throughout the two days, providing mentorship and insight within their respective sports.
Page, a powerlifter and member of the 2017 U.S. Para Powerlifting World Championship Team roster, said it was important to him to introduce newer athletes to the sport, as he had benefited greatly from mentorship himself.
“I was originally in their position – I know how tough it can be to come up off that,” Page said, who highlighted teammates like Jacob Stearns (Orlando, Florida) and Jacob Schrom (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) as some of his mentors. “I had a group of people helping me as well, so I figured there could be somebody out here who, in the same way, joined a sport because they loved it so much.”
Ola Marasco, a lover of powerlifting, was one of the new faces in the gym this past weekend.
The Hawaiian native started powerlifting at his local gym before a fellow gym goer introduced him to the sport of wheelchair basketball. From there, he learned more about the Paralympic Movement and began to try out other sports, like track and field.
“I've always wanted to be an athlete, so coming out here is all surreal,” Marasco said. “It's like the first step of getting my foot in the door and reaching those goals.”
Marasco received pointers this weekend from experienced throwers like Cinnamo, who is a world record holder in the shot put (F46) and placed fourth in the event at the 2017 world championships.
“It helps having (Cinnamo)’s insight on everything – it gives us a lot of motivation, especially being one-on-one with him and he tells you his own experience,” Marasco said. “It gets you motivated real quick.”
Lionel Price, another hopeful, said he couldn’t believe it at first when he got the email about attending the Quick Start camp. The Dallas native said he hopes he can eventually inspire and encourage younger athletes through his involvement in Paralympic sports.
“The next batch that possibly comes up who are younger, whether it be five, ten years from now, I just want to let them know I came to the camp and am able to say I participated in this and was a part of Team USA's training,” Price said. “I just want to be able to push myself and push others.”
Bieule, a Paralympian who competed in the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, spent time coaching athletes on throwing discus. One piece of advice she tried to stress to the newcomers is to enjoy the process.
“I see the frustration, I see the ‘how far was that?’ ‘what does it take to make team?’ It reminds me of my first year and how I was constantly looking at IPC numbers and rankings, and I wasn't focusing on what I had to do,’ Bieule said. “Rome wasn't built in a day. It's a process. You have to learn how to enjoy the process, learn the technique, the importance of what makes a perfect throw.”
Page reflected back on his own memories of getting started, stressing the importance of such a camp for the potential discovery and growth of the country’s next elite Paralympians.
“I remember being exactly where these kids were, just seeing somebody on the team lift and being like ‘that looks really cool, I really want to try this,’” Page said. “So this is very important, doing this, very much so. You always want to encourage new talent, because you never know. This is how you expose people to the sport.”
Bieule echoed such sentiments, saying that the time she has spent working with the hopefuls has reinvigorated her own passion for throwing.
“Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm in their eyes, it brings back that passion and that fire into the sport,” Bieule said. “It reminds you all over again why you started.”