NY Road Runners offers kids with disabilities shot in national wheelchair competition

Sonia Rincón Image
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
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As part of Disability Pride Month, folks at New York Roadrunners are offering kids with disabilities a free, year-round program to follow their dreams and race their hearts out. Sonia Rincon has the story.

LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- As part of Disability Pride Month, folks at New York Roadrunners are offering kids with disabilities a free year-round program to follow their dreams and race their hearts out.

Four members of the Rising New York Road Runners Wheelchair Training program are the only ones on the team, for young athletes in wheelchairs, to qualify for a national competition: the Move United Junior Nationals.

"I haven't done these kinds of races before, so I'm a little nervous," 11-year-old Lucy Shannon said.

Shannon has wanted to do this ever since she saw the wheelchair racers at the New York City Marathon.

"And she had this bewildered look on her face and then whispered I'm going to do that one day and here we are," Shannon's dad, Tom Shannon, said.

She recruited 8-year-old Penelope, who has a different type of cerebral palsy. Her parents say this makes the kind of exercise, essential for her coordination, fun.

"That motivation of wanting to achieve has helped her to like, learn that control and that teaches her body also how to control itself," Penelope's mom Marlina Chan-Fernandez said. "It trains her mind and her body, as well as her spirit."

The four kids who qualified have one more practice this weekend. Then they're off to Colorado next week to compete for the first time in the Junior Nationals as the Rising New York Road Runners Team.

"We're really excited to take this first group of kids. They've worked so hard," said Paul Kolterjahn of the NYRR.

The program was started in 2016 by coaches Paul Kolterjahn and Trisha Yurochko of New York Road Runners. They have worked with all kinds of wheelchair athletes.

They say working with kids means parents connect with families like theirs and root for children they may not have thought would become athletes.

"So, it's really exciting to watch them (the parents) and that just kind of brings it all home," Yurochko said.

On Tuesday, the team got in some track time at East River Park with volunteer trainer Arielle Rausin.

"As a former wheelchair racer, I can kind of help them learn how to use their body to navigate whether it's on the track or on the road and since I also have a disability, I also know what it's like to be a brand new athlete in a racing chair for the first time and maybe be a little nervous," said Arielle Rausin, a former pro wheelchair racer.

They may be a little nervous, but they know exactly what they're looking forward to.

"Racing. And meeting athletes from across the USA," 9-year-old Harry Houng-Lee said.

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