Athletes will push 55 miles around the island
Cayman students are more aware of the potential and abilities of people with disabilities after hearing from two paralympians participating in the Stay-Focused third annual Push Across Cayman campaign.
“We want to get as many young people there as possible to cheer them on and participate in the bike rodeo,” said Roger Muller, founder of the Stay-Focused charity, who is accompanying the athletes taking part in the 55-mile “Push Across Cayman” on Saturday.
Any young person who has a bike and decorates it will get to do a victory lap with the athletes around Cayman International School and each athlete will choose the bike they like most and the owner gets a cool prize, he said.
Five athletes will start the race at Camana Bay and push 55 miles around the island and return to Camana Bay around noon on Saturday. They are inviting members of the public to come out and support them at the finish line.
The goal is to raise at least $10,000 to support their programs in Cayman this summer.
In the run-up to the race, the athletes have been visiting local schools to share their stories and spread awareness about with disabilities.
Paralympians Brian Siemann and Ryan Chalmers, on a visit to Clifton Hunter High School on Wednesday, highlighted the Stay-Focused internship program and how students could become certified scuba divers.
Students were impressed with the athletes’ abilities on their racing wheelchair bikes.
Year 7 student Maleek Powell said he felt more educated about people with disabilities and the various forms of transportation they can use to get around. “I also learned from Mr. Brian they have continued to upgrade the wheelchair racing bikes. I will try to get sponsors to help them and invite other people to attend and support the Stay-Focused organization,” he said.
Mr. Siemann explained they would be going a bit slower than in a normal race during the Push Across Cayman. This race, he said, was more of an awareness-raising event to highlight the potential and abilities of people with disabilities.
He explained to students how the racing wheelchairs work. The racing chair is not designed like a normal wheelchair – the wheels are cambered at a specific angle and the chair is longer than a standard wheelchair, making it more aerodynamic so it can be propelled significantly faster. The chair is made of aluminum and the wheels from carbon fiber. It is very light and weighs only about 15 pounds.
“It is a pretty good wheelchair to use for speed,” Mr. Siemann told the students. “We train two times a day, six days a week, a lot of working out and making sure we are strong and ready to complete the race.”
Along with Mr. Siemann and Mr. Chalmers on the Push Across Cayman will be their USA teammates Tatyana McFadden, Aaron Pike and Susannah Scaroni.
All five athletes competed in the London Paralympics. Mr. Siemann and Mr. Chalmers have also participated in the Cayman Islands half marathons in the past.
Originally from New Jersey, Mr. Siemann has been part of Stay-Focused for the past nine years. According to Siemann, he was recruited through the program as a result of a sports competition and became a certified scuba diver under the Stay-Focused program. “Roger saw me and it looked like I had potential to complete the program and so I was asked to come down,” he said.
He loves coming to Cayman. “I call it my second home and it is especially nice coming in the winter because it is freezing cold back home. I always feel so welcome here it really is like my second home,” he said.