Angel City Games Draws Hundreds

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By Betta Ferrendelli

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Nearly 300 parasport athletes, including 30 Paralympians from 19 states and three countries, came together June 21-24 to compete in the Fourth Annual Angel City Games at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Competitions were held for athletes from two to 73 years old in archery, track and field, swimming, and wheelchair tennis and basketball. Paralympians and Olympic-level athletes and coaches also conducted introductory clinics for participants in each of the sports.

Clayton Frech, CEO, founded Angel City Sports (Games) in 2015 in honor of his now 13-year-old son Ezra to provide opportunities for children, adults, and veterans with physical differences and impairments to participate in sports. Clayton Frech told the crowd during opening ceremonies June 22 that "sports of all kinds have the power to change lives."

The event and Frech's opening-day comments couldn't have meant more to Sandra Sandoval and her eight-year-old daughter, Azalia Sandoval, who traveled from San Antonio to participate in the games for the first time. Sandoval described her daughter, who has a right transfemoral amputation, as a "go-getter." "She's very athletic, and sports is her thing," her mother said. "She has never let anything get her down."

The same held true for Joshua "J.J." Miller, 10, who was born in California without tibias and has transtibial amputations. In addition to competing in track and field and archery, Miller also received helpful tips during a running clinic conducted by coaches from USA Track & Field. His mother, Laura, said attending the Angel City Games was a great place for athletes like her son to compete, have fun, and socialize. "This is all about opportunity," she said. "It's a wonderful event that gives everyone the chance to come together to fellowship with each other and try different things."

Brazilian Marco Borgs, who has a right transfemoral amputation and competed in shot put at the 2012 London and 2008 Beijing Paralympics, conducted the shot put and disc clinics at the Angel City Games. "The games work well to motivate athletes to want to compete," he said. "Sports did change my life and I wanted to do something in order to expand that to children."

The number of athletes competing at the Angel City Games has nearly doubled since the initial event. Colorado native and Paralympian Lacey Henderson, who lost her right leg above the knee to cancer when she was nine years old, was competing in the long jump at the games for the second time. She said she's excited to see the event continue to gain status. "It's awesome," she said. "Clayton has so much passion, and it's great to see everything expanding."

Planning is underway for the 2019 Angel City Games, which will be held June 20-23 in Los Angeles.