BY RICHARD RHINEHART
Arlington, Virginia, July 22, 2011 – Elite handcyclist Helene Hines simply refuses to accept defeat. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 30, Hines ignored recommendations from doctors to give up on walking and instead competed in several major marathons before taking up handcycling. In 2002, Hines participated in the second Face of America ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports, cycling from Ground Zero in New York to the Pentagon in Washington to commemorate the tragic losses of September 11, 2001.
“I remember how wonderful it was that everyone was so friendly and got along so well, in spite of all the differences in ability and background,” recalls Hines. “The abled pushed the disabled uphill near Gettysburg, for example. And WTS had big comfortable buses waiting for us in Washington to take us back to New York. The whole experience was wonderful.”
With her new memoir, “Third in the World,” from Firefall Media to be released this November, Hines is remembering the people and the events in her life. Invited by World T.E.A.M. Sports Chairman James Benson to participate in the Face of America, Hines was one of more than 1,400 persons who rode the three day ride in September 2002.
“While working at Achilles International, I heard about the ride and thought it would be a novelty for me. It was,” said Hines. She recalls she participated in two World T.E.A.M. events: “One on bicycle, where I met many people by falling on them. And one on a hand-cycle, which was exhilarating.”
An active member of non-profit Achilles International, Hines has fond memories of the 2002 Face of America and the rainy weather that accompanied the ride, allowing her to “show up on the guys.” “They slept in a tent. It was their first time. I warned them they’d get wet. I slept in a school gymnasium. In the night they touched the inside tent roof and got drenched. They didn’t know better. They showed up soaked in the gym, asking sheepishly if they could join me.”
The captain of her high school pom-pom squad, Hines has always been active. Participating in a variety of sports, including swimming, field hockey and tennis, Hines took up running to stay in shape. A member of her local fire department for seven years, Hines reports she was a tomboy as a young girl who liked outdoor sports and activities.
It was a surprise, then, when doctors diagnosed mysterious periodical paralyses she experienced as Multiple Sclerosis. When doctors suggested she would never walk again, she proved them wrong through determination and a vigorous training schedule. Taking up marathons by suggestion from her husband George, Hines ran in many of the country’s largest marathons after her diagnosis, including New York and Boston.
When her legs began troubling her in competitions, Hines quickly excelled by switching to handcycling. At the IPC Handcycle World Championships in Altenstadt, Germany in August, 2002, Hines finished third, three minutes behind the winner from the Netherlands. “They had this crazy route,” Hines recalled, “But I got through it, to get third in the world again against these kids who are 30 years younger.”
Now in her 60s, Hines continues to compete. In the 2010 New York Marathon, she finished first among competing female handcyclists. Regarding participating in future World T.E.A.M. Sports events, she is uncertain. “I’ve limited myself, since my family doesn’t join me anymore, and my friends have become more disabled, too disabled to ride. I’ve also become more involved in teaching others to work with their disabilities and function regardless.”
Appreciative of the support she has received from her service animal and companion, Kyler, Hines is donating her book royalties to Canine Companions for Independence, a California-based nonprofit providing service animals to people with disabilities.
Hines is supportive of persons with disabilities and the challenges they face. “Never give up. You can do more than you think you can. Find a group to join and you’ll find volunteers to help and encourage you.”
“Third in the World,” by Helene Hines will be released in November, 2011 by Firefall Media. The $21 hardcover, illustrated book will be available through several booksellers, including Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.