For a physically disabled athlete, the date to mark on the calendar is Saturday, May 11, 2013. That will be the 25th anniversary of the Challenge Games — a track, field and boccia competition for physically challenged athletes held in Derby, KS, and the only event of its kind held in south central Kansas.
The Challenge Games were founded in 1989 by physical therapist Carol Keller in response to a lack of athletic competition available to local physically challenged athletes. Since then, hundreds of athletes from Kansas and multiple other states have participated in the Challenge Games. They include several former Paralympics competitors, such as three-time silver medalist Eric Stenback of Derby, four-time Paralympian Austin Hanson of Topeka and 2012 Paralympian Jordan Bird of Wichita.
This year promises not only great competition but also a 25-year reunion of former athletes. Events include typical track competitions, such as the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, etc., as well as field events, such as long jump, javelin, shotput and discus. Another interesting event is the boccia competition. Competitors vie head to head to score points by throwing or rolling specially constructed leather balls closest to a marker ball in a winner-take-all format.
Since 1989, hundreds of athletes from Kansas and multiple other states have participated in the Challenge Games. They include several former Paralympics competitors, such as three-time silver medalist Eric Stenback of Derby, four-time Paralympian Austin Hanson of Topeka and 2012 Paralympian Jordan Bird of Wichita.
All physically challenged athletes are classified based on the level of their ability. This creates a level playing field so they compete against others of similar ability. Types of physical challenges represented include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, limb amputations, spina bifida, spinal cord injury and many others. The event is open to both adult and school-age athletes. Some athletes use wheelchairs, others are ambulatory, and others use some type of assistive device, such as a walker or cane. First-time athletes are encouraged to come out and give it a try. The level of competitiveness varies from beginner to experienced, but the spirit of competition and camaraderie prevails throughout.
If you have friends, family members or patients who might be interested in the Challenge Games, please refer them to www.ChallengeGames.org to register or learn more.
(Please note: Challenge Games are NOT Special Olympics.)
Cody Barnett, P.T., is in private practice in Wichita. He specializes in the treatment of orthopedic and musculoskeletal injuries, with a special emphasis in lower-body biomechanics, pediatric and adult sports injuries, and neck and back pain. He may be reached at www.BodyworxPhysicalTherapy.net or (316) 558-8808. Bodyworx Physical Therapy is a sponsor of the Challenge Games track and field competition.