Some of America’s most accomplished wheelchair athletes are competing in the 55-mile Push Across Cayman event this weekend.
Push Across Cayman is a fun, family-friendly ride around the island, but it’s still tough pushing under the Cayman sun. Even though some of the fastest wheelchair racers in the world are involved, it is primarily a community event and fundraiser for Stay-Focused, a nonprofit organization that empowers teens with disabilities through scuba diving certification and leadership development programs.
Although 55 miles is challenging, the five will push at around 12-13 miles per hour, which will allow anyone who is interested to cycle along with them, even if only for a few miles. It starts in Camana Bay at 7 a.m. on Saturday.
Stay-Focused was created by Roger Muller and athletes Ryan Chalmers and Brian Siemann have been regular visitors here for a decade now. Both competed at the Paralympic Games, London 2012, for Team USA.
They were joined this week by Susannah Scaroni and Aaron Pike, both Team USA and Paralympic Games (London 2012) athletes as well.
Tatyana McFadden is here, too. She is a multiple, Paralympic Games rep, has won major marathon events including London, Boston, Chicago and New York, and was a silver medalist in Nordic skiing at the Sochi 2014 Games.
The third annual Push Across Cayman serves as a reminder to Chalmers of what he faced when he slogged on a daily basis, covering 3,320 miles across America, two years ago.
Push Across Cayman is Stay-Focused’s signature, fundraising event. “Push Across Cayman is all about building awareness for adaptive sports and celebrating all persons with disabilities,” Chalmers said.
Following the Push, they will have a dinner at Ortanique in Camana Bay where guests can meet the athletes and hear their amazing stories of determination and achievement. At the dinner there will be a special performance by Grammy Award-winning artist Paul Overstreet.
The goal is to raise at least $10,000 to support their programs in Cayman this summer.
It’s great to have the bikers along for the Push, Chalmers said, adding that the bikers always have a good time, and the athletes really appreciate their company.
“We also welcome supporters to be at the Finish Line in Camana Bay around noon to celebrate our arrival,” Chalmers said.
The athletes are visiting Cayman schools this week and encouraging students to be at the finish line for their arrival.
They were at Cayman Prep Primary and Grace Christian on Tuesday, will visit Clifton Hunter and Montessori by the Sea on Wednesday, go to Cayman Prep High and Cayman International School on Thursday, and are at Clifton Hunter, Hope Academy and Red Bay Primary on Friday.
For kids who choose to decorate their bikes and participate in the Bike Rodeo, they’ll enjoy a victory lap with the athletes around the Cayman International School, following the end of the Push. Each Stay-Focused athlete will then choose the bike they like the most and the owner will win a prize.
Chalmers and Siemann love to dive and appreciate the warmth of Cayman’s locals. “Whenever I return to Cayman, I feel like I’m coming home,” Chalmers said. “I’ve made some very good friends in Cayman and know I will spend a lot of time on island in the years ahead.”
Stay-Focused is working with a Cayman-based sponsor to grow the wheelchair category in the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon, which they created in 2010.
“Ideally, we will be adding wheelchair racers from other countries in this year’s Cayman marathon in December,” he said.
“Our goal is to involve the largest number of wheelchair racers in a marathon in the Caribbean.”
Muller and Chalmers are planning a couple of major events in Cayman in the next few years, but he is not considering another Push Across America.
They want to organize group events that will bring more athletes here to promote adaptive sports.
“I must admit, I can be convinced to do pretty much anything for a great cause.”
Push Across America was a huge undertaking for Stay-Focused and they achieved what was most important – building awareness for persons with disabilities.
They raised a significant amount of funds and invested heavily in documenting the journey, which they are making into a documentary. They plan to feature a segment of it in the Cayman Islands Film Festival in June and complete production next year.
Chalmers is looking forward to competing in the Cayman Islands half marathon in December, as usual. “It’s always such fun, and I enjoy the opportunity to be part of such a cool event,” he said.
He is based in Champaign, Illinois, and turns 26 next month. Training for a major event is not possible at this time.
“At the moment, my training has not been consistent, as I have been traveling a lot in support of Stay-Focused,” he said.
Chalmers added, “Many thanks, of course, to Dart, our Push Across Cayman event sponsor, and the biggest supporter of our Push Across America.
“A shout out to Vicki and David Legge at Pinnacle Media, as they have been supporters of Stay-Focused for many years, and we always appreciate the perspective and counsel they bring to everything we do.
“We are also grateful for the support we have received from the many schools who have invited us to make presentations to their students. The students are always very responsive to our visit and ask great questions.
“Promoting disability awareness in Cayman is important to us, and there’s no better way to do that than by connecting with young Caymanians.”
If interested in any Push Across Cayman activity, contact Roger Muller email: [email protected]