By Richard Rhinehart
Grand Junction, Colorado, September 10, 2013 – A master of wheelchair pickleball will take time from competition to ride his specialized off-road hand cycle in the September 13-15 Adventure TEAM Challenge from World T.E.A.M. Sports.
An “incomplete paraplegic,” Delta, Colorado athlete Rick Marion will compete as a member of the Integrated Healthcare team at the annual Challenge, beginning Friday at the scenic McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction. Teamed with four athletes from across the country, the team will mountain bike, raft the Colorado River, climb red sandstone rock outcroppings and negotiate their way through a challenging outdoor course designed by experienced adventure sports athlete Billy Mattison of Vail.
“I like to think my disability does not slow me down much,” said the 50-year-old Marion, who fractured his spine 13 years ago after falling from a ladder while working at a feed mill. After months of rehabilitation, Marion can now stand, but is unable to walk without assistance.
In the Challenge, each competing team includes two persons with disabilities, one of which must be a wheelchair user. The resulting event offers disabled and able-bodied team members the opportunity to compete against other teams, but also to develop teamwork and cooperation to successfully complete each stage over two days.
The Adventure TEAM Challenge “made me realize it takes a team to get something done,” said Marion, who first participated in the 2012 event. Encouraged to participate by Crested Butte hand bicycle designer and builder Jake O’Connor, Marion thoroughly enjoyed his experience. For this year’s event, he hopes to “have a good time and do the best our team can do.”
Riding an off-road hand cycle from O’Connor’s Reactive Adaptations, Marion discovered that he loves active sports. “I drank beer for my first ten plus years,” says Marion of his lifestyle following his accident. “That was a waste of all those years. I now play many sports.”
In recent years, Marion has traveled across the state to introduce the sport of pickleball to other athletes in chairs, including patients in rehabilitation at Denver’s Craig Hospital. “I love this little game,” he said. Competing in several tournaments, Marion reports the sport has been gaining in popularity and is played across the country. From its beginning in Washington state in 1965, the sport is described as a mixture of badminton, tennis and ping-pong. Played on a hard court with a low net, participants hit a hard plastic ball back and forth using paddles.
Whether it is picking up a sport like pickleball, riding a hand cycle or simply working out at a recreation center, Marion encourages others with disabilities to be active. “Don’t wait around – get out and do it!”
The 2013 Adventure TEAM Challenge is sponsored by Fidelity & Guaranty Life, Penske Truck Rental and Timberline Tours. One of many inclusive events for disabled and able-bodied athletes from the national non-profit organization, the Challenge has been successfully completed by each of the participating teams since the inaugural event in 2007.
Richard Rhinehart serves as Director of Communications for World T.E.A.M. Sports.