May 28 - An official technical training camp of USA Para-triathlon has just been concluded in Pensacola, Florida, where 19 athletes were put through their paces as they start looking ahead to the Rio 2016 Paralympics, where the sport will make its debut in the Games.
The camp, which was titled The Challenged Athletes Foundation's (CAF) Dodge/CAF Para Triathlon Camp, saw a number of disability athletes honed their technical abilities with assistance from leading triathlon experts.
The participants were taught how to get the most out of training, how to practice proper nutrition and how to race effectively and efficiently and reach their goals in the sport.
Among the participants were nine members of CAF's Operation Rebound programme which assists permanently injured military and first responders.
"It was a thrill to be a part of the camp again this year," said Jon Beeson, a former International Triathlon Union (ITU) world champion and co-chairman of the USA Para-triathlon Committee.
The Portofino Island Resort in Pensacola proved to be the ideal location for the Camp where athletes had access and instruction from some of the best coaches in the sport.
These included Sergio Borges of Sergio Borges X Training, a Level 3 USA Triathlon coach, Mark Sortino and John Murray, both Level 1 coaches from the Multisport Performance Institute (MPI), and Peter Harsch, who is Level 1 coach and chief prosthetist for Naval Medical Centre San Diego.
The coaching staff was rounded out by Jason Fowler, the 2009 Ironman World Champion in the handcycle division, and Scot Hollonbeck, a four-time US Paralympian in wheelchair racing, along with world-class athlete mentors Sarah Reinertsen, Paul Martin and Amy Dodson.
"What makes these camps special is that we couple the expertise of elite coaches with the real-world experiences of world champion mentors so our participants don't have to reinvent the wheel," said Roy Perkins, senior director of programmes at the CAF.
"This greatly accelerates their progress and allows our athletes to quickly overcome any apprehensions they may have about the sport."
Among those who took advantage of the coaching to overcome their fears was above-knee amputee Ben Simmons, who used the skills acquired in the pool swim session to overcome his fear of swimming and engage in an open water swim in the Santa Rosa Sound.
Another example was Jennifer Clark who, thanks to the patient assistance of camp coaches, was able to ride her bicycle for the first time since losing her leg.
"This was by far the best time investment I have made in my triathlon journey," said Jose Ramos, a retired Navy Corpsman who lost his arm below the elbow in during the war in Iraq in 2004.
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