The five Paralympic athletes who completed the 55-mile Push Across Cayman ride on Saturday said it was another great success.
It was the third annual Push event, starting and finishing at Camana Bay, headed by Ryan Chalmers and Brian Siemann, who are regular visitors here.
The Paralympic athletes, who competed at the London Games in 2012, were here through the New York-based charity Stay-Focused, which empowers youngsters with disabilities through scuba diving certification and leadership development programs.
They were joined by equally celebrated American Paralympic athletes Tatyana McFadden, Susannah Scaroni and Aaron Pike.
They pushed off at 7 a.m. and finished at 12:07 a.m.
Local children were invited to ride their bikes with the athletes at the end. Stay-Focused founder Roger Muller said the kids really enjoyed meeting the athletes and asking them all kinds of questions.
“Both at the finish line as well as during the week at their school presentations, the kids were our biggest supporters,” he said. “And the spectators along the route were very cool. We received quite a bit of press coverage, so people knew we were coming. But when passersby actually see the five athletes pushing past them, they can’t help but stop and gaze in amazement.”
Mr. Muller said, “Ryan, Brian and Aaron, who did the Push Across Cayman in 2013, were very pleased with the weather, which was much better than on their last Push.
“Tatyana and Susannah, who pushed for the first time, thought the weather was perfect.”
Mr. Muller said highlights included their arrival in Camana Bay, with the supporters and kids there to greet them, taking photos of the athletes surrounded by well-wishers, and meeting several people with disabilities. They also enjoyed going for an afternoon dive at Sunset House, which offered a totally different kind of experience on a hot day.
“And our celebration dinner Saturday evening at Ortanique, with a performance by special guest, Grammy Award winning artist Paul Overstreet, was lovely too,” Mr. Muller said.
He added that the goal was to raise $10,000 in support of their Stay-Focused programs this summer.
“I’m confident we will have achieved our goal when we complete the tally from our auction items and donor support.”
Mr. Chalmers said, “I always love participating in the Push. I’m glad the weather held out this year. Although the Push is always challenging, it is interesting to see how the body reacts to the 55-miler each year.”
Ms. McFadden and Ms. Scaroni said they enjoyed the Push, he added. It was the first time Ms. McFadden ever pushed more than 30 miles, and he was surprised to see how well she handled the distance for more than five hours.
“I was impressed with both of them, as I know how difficult it is to push the 55 miles and be in your chair for that long.”
Mr. Chalmers said the looks on the spectators’ faces as they drove by and saw them pushing was priceless.
“For those who have never before seen a racing wheelchair, it can definitely be a surprise.
“The kids always have great questions about wheelchair racing, and even though many have seen or heard of the Push before, they are always interested in learning more, which we love to see.”
He said that the Bike Rodeo, when the kids got involved with activities in Camana Bay as the athletes finished the Push, was his most enjoyable time.
Another precious moment was when a woman who has been an amputee for more than 20 years, stopped by during their water stops and then again at the end of Push.
Mr. Chalmers said, “She is the perfect example of someone adapting to an unexpected situation and pushing through it and achieving goals she set for herself, even if, at the onset, she thought it would be impossible.”
All the athletes enjoyed the crowd at the end of the event, which has grown each year, confirming that they made the right decision when they decided to make Push Across Cayman an annual event.
Mr. Chalmers thanked Dart and Pinnacle Media “for the great promotion throughout the entire week. Thanks, as well, to all the kids and families who came out to greet us as we crossed the finish line.”
Stay-Focused has four programs planned for this summer, with more than 20 people with disabilities diving here “in the beautiful Cayman water,” Mr. Muller said.
The programs will run from July 23–Aug. 19 and the group stay at their host hotel, the Grand Cayman Marriott. Red Sail Sports will provide support for their dive operations, along with Sunset Divers and Ocean Frontiers.