Wheel-Chariots of Fire
Byline: Lynn Peisner
Top-tier wheelchair athletes are shattering records and racking up big titles this season – both on the court and on the street.
Longmont, Colo.-based Sunrise Medical’s Team Quickie is heralding the performance of star basketball player Jeff Glasbrenner, who set a National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) record at the 56th NWBA Tournament April 4 in Phoenix. Glasbrenner scored 63 points and grabbed 26 rebounds for his team, the Denver Rolling Nuggets. In the process, he smashed the previous NWBA scoring record of 39 points set in 1968.
Enmeshed in his performance, however, Glasbrenner was impervious to his record-breaking game. “I was in a zone,” he says. “I couldn’t hear the crowd. I had no idea.” Glasbrenner was named the tournament’s MVP and will go on to the 2004 Paralympic Games, to begin Sept. 17 in Athens, Greece, just after the summer Olympic Games conclude.
This year, Team Quickie is sponsoring approximately 20 athletes in basketball, tennis and racing at the Paralympics – and approximately 100 athletes worldwide. The reciprocal relationship enables the athletes to participate in world-class sports events while the company gains product feedback from the athletes. The company also sponsors “lifestyle ambassadors,” people with disabilities who help promote active lifestyles and exemplify excellence in the competitive arena.
On the streets, South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk of Team Invacare, sponsored by Invacare Corp., Elyria, Ohio, set a new record in the Boston Marathon’s wheelchair race on April 19. His winning time of 1:18:27 broke the 1994 course record of 1:21:23 and even beat the world record for all wheelchair marathons, which was set in 1999. The win marks Van Dyk’s fourth consecutive Boston Marathon title.
In the women’s competition, Team Invacare’s Cheri Blauwet won with a time of 1:39:53. Helene Hines, who recovered from a shoulder replacement in late January, won the women’s handcycling division with a time of 1:43:39. Hines’ shoulder replacement includes some titanium, and so does her handcycle. She billed the race as “the first time anywhere that titanium parts in a machine and a person are doing the Marathon.”
Team Invacare sponsors approximately 75 wheelchair athletes and teams, including tennis, basketball (NWBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks) and quad rugby teams as well as individual track and racing athletes.
Both Sunrise and Invacare say their adaptive sport programs promote good health and balance while helping to raise awareness – and to produce better sports wheelchairs.
Visit www.sunrisemedical.com to learn more about Team Quickie. For more information on Team Invacare, visit www.invacare.com.
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