Endeavor Games Bring Together Elites and Beginners

Home > Articles > Endeavor Games Bring Together Elites and Beginners
Young athletes await competition at the 2009 Endeavor Games. Photograph courtesy of UCO Photographic Services.

The Endeavor Games came back to the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), Edmond, from June 11-14 for another record-breaking year. More than 400 athletes, including world-class elites and first-timers, convened on the campus for training, competition, and perhaps most importantly, cameraderie.

"There is a sense of family when you come here," said Leigha Joiner, Endeavor Games event organizer. "You come here to see friends that you haven't seen in a year and to have fun and enjoy the community of the sport."

Several hundred volunteers came together to hold competitions in events including track and field, powerlifting, table tennis, swimming, indoor and outdoor archery, shooting, and wheelchair basketball. The major new events of the year were sitting volleyball and cycling, the latter including events for upright cycles, handcycles, and tandem cycles for blind riders.

Training clinics and workshops covered most of the major events, plus wheelchair yoga and strengthening/conditioning. Athletes from any background were welcome in the clinics, meaning that new athletes had a wide range of options, and more experienced athletes both honed current skills and tried new events.

"The clinics were originally started as a partnership with U.S. Paralympics," Joiner said. "We give people the opportunity to learn an event and then compete in it, and with our mix of elite athletes and brand-new athletes, people can get mentoring from their heroes."

T.J. Pemberton is a professional archer who lives and trains at the U.S. Paralympic Center at UCO. Though he has a mobility disability that requires him to wear a custom leg brace in order to stand in competition, he has risen to the ranking of 17th in the United States-among able-bodied competitors. As a competitor in and coordinator for the Endeavor Games archery programs, he saw firsthand how the Games benefit elite and beginning athletes.

"I think one of the most important things about the Endeavor Games is that they help new athletes, newly in­jured persons, military personnel, and people who have not been exposed to sport for persons with disabilities to try new sports.... It gives them the chance to see at the grassroots level what it would take to compete at higher levels. Beginners see intermediates and a lot of the time they get to meet some of the elite Paralympic athletes."

Plans are already in the works to expand the Games further for 2010.

CAF's Operation Rebound athlete Sam Cila leans into a San Francisco curve. Photograph courtesy of brightroom.com

"We're thinking of lots of fun things for next year," Joiner said. "Having our first year of cycling competition was extremely exciting and so much fun, and next year cycling is going to bring our biggest addition. We're looking at doing a 20k cycle race, and that's going to be huge for us because this year's race-our first one-was a 4k." Competitions of that scale require far more volunteer support than smaller events and will challenge participating athletes to greater training efforts in the months ahead. However, Joiner contended that the Games will always have room for the full range of competitors. "Our age range this year was 4 to 67," she said. "We include everybody. You're never too old or too young to have fun or to come to the Endeavor Games."

CAF Triathletes Escape from Alcatraz

During its 29 years as a federal penitentiary, Alcatraz Island housed some of the most notorious prisoners in the United States and was famed for its escape-proof record. Now, thousands of triathletes annually descend on what has become a landmark historical site for America's top-ranked triathlon, the Escape from Alcatraz™. This year, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) sponsored five athletes in the grueling June 14 race, which included a 1.5-mile swim through frigid waters-from Alcatraz Island to shore-an 18-mile bike ride over San Francisco's hair-raising hills, and an eight-mile run through the Golden Gate Recreational Area.

As the official charity partner of Escape from Alcatraz, CAF received more than $11,000 in donations, some in the form of race-entry fees from fundraisers and the rest from race organizers.