By Richard Rhinehart
Eagle, Colorado, September 14, 2015 – Disabled and able-bodied athletes from across the United States are participating in this week’s inclusive Adventure Team Challenge Colorado from national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports.
Held at the rustic Rancho del Rio resort in the rugged Gore Mountains northeast of Eagle, the Challenge is unique in adventure sports. Each participating team of five athletes includes two athletes with disabilities, one athlete being a wheelchair user. This combination of able-bodied and disabled athletes working together encourages teamwork and cooperation to overcome physical and technical challenges during the three-stage outdoor event.
“The Adventure Team Challenge is a truly unique event,” said World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson. “It is the embodiment of a team event. Each member of every team must work together to accomplish the goal. Through two long days of orienteering, mountain biking, hiking, ropes and water events, the teams are challenged at all phases. Every person who participates in this event walks away with a new perspective.”
Participants in the Challenge raft the Colorado River, ride off-road bicycles on rocky, steep trails, climb granite cliffs and use orienteering to find each checkpoint along the course. Teams missing a checkpoint are assigned penalties by the event organizers, Billy and Helene Mattison of Vail, who compile overall times for each team. At the end of the weekend, the team that completes the course in the shortest time overall and does not miss any checkpoints, will be recognized as this year’s champion.
Athletes in the Challenge include military veterans and civilians, many of whom are active in outdoor sports, but who have not previously competed in a team adventure. Disabilities for athletes range from spinal cord injuries that have resulted in full to partial paralysis, amputations, Post-Traumatic Stress and brain injuries.
Although many of the athletes are from Colorado, others are traveling from states from coast to coast. Participating athletes will arrive from California, Oregon, Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, New York, Missouri, Virginia, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Teams consist of men and women, ranging in age from 24 to 57, who will camp under the stars at the resort, share meals and work together to successfully complete the Challenge.
Since the first Adventure Team Challenge in 2007, each participating team has completed all stages. Challenges have been held at Rancho del Rio in the Gore Mountains, along the Arkansas River near Leadville, and near the Colorado/Utah state border west of Grand Junction.
Participating adaptive athletes include Jamey Stogsdill of Oregon, who was the first woman to mon-ski the Big Couloir at Montana’s Big Sky Resort in 2014; Army Staff Sergeant Ian Newland, who served two deployments in Iraq and was wounded in action; Massachusetts cyclist Gina Utegg, who was in a serious automobile accident in 2001 that left her with a variety of injuries and ended her corporate career; and Estes Park athlete Dan Marshall, who survived a paralyzing aircraft crash in 2002 and is returning for his second Challenge.
Navy veteran and stand-up comedian PJ Walsh, a recent participant in NBC Television’s American Ninja Warrior competition, will be joining the Marines Team at the competition. As a veteran, Walsh feels he has a duty of honoring servicemen and women who fight for their country. His participation will help honor these veterans, as well as bring attention to the remarkable skills and dedication of disabled and able-bodied veterans.
Team Endless Abilities, who traveled across the United States in the spring of 2012 searching for adaptive sports for athletes with disabilities and filmed a feature documentary film in the process, will be joining together to undertake the Challenge.
The 2015 Adventure Team Challenge Colorado from World T.E.A.M. Sports is supported through sponsors and partners including American Portfolios Financial Services, Audubon Orthotic & Prosthetic Services, Deven’s Recycling, Pearl Meyer & Partners, Skanska USA, TimeCapital and Timberline Sports. Additional financial support is provided by Jim Noland, George Puskar and James Benson.