The contest that put the “extremities” into extreme sports rocked across Michigan again this year on July 9-11. The 2009 Extremity Games brought together competitors with amputations or limb differences from as far away as Germany, France, and South Africa to join members of the Wounded Warriors Project and other athletes from across the United States for contests in six sports: kayaking, motocross, mountain biking, rock climbing, skateboarding, and wakeboarding. Competitors and supporters alike were also welcomed in free instructional clinics in kayaking, mixed martial arts, mountain biking, rock climbing, skateboarding, and wakeboarding over the course of the weekend. Competitions, which were held in four Michigan towns, were limited to experts, but beginners joined elites in the clinics. Live music, exhibits, and demonstration sports rounded out the weekend.
The 2009 Games (eX4) were organized by the Athletes with Disabilities Network (ADN), a subsidiary of Easter Seals-Michigan. ADN, which also coordinates the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame, oversaw the event for the first time this year, taking over for founding sponsor College Park Industries, Fraser, Michigan. The Games also demonstrated its growing street cred by being named a qualifying event for a division of the ESPN X Games.
“The Athletes with Disabilities Network, the organizers of Extremity Games, are excited to partner with Adaptive Action Sports, the official sports organizer for the Super X Adaptive Finals motocross competition at the ESPN X Games,” announced Jim Wazny, Extremity Games motocross coordinator and a motocross racer. “This year, Extremity Games served as the pre-qualifier for the Super X Adaptive Finals motocross competition with the top six riders at Extremity Games being officially invited to compete in the X Games race.” The Extremity medalists in the motocross “Lite” and “Premier” divisions were Chris Ridgeway (Premier, gold), Mike Schultz (Premier, silver), Jason Woods (Premier, bronze), George Hammel (Lite, gold), TJ Hiracheta (Lite, silver), and Sampie Erasmus (Lite, bronze). In the X Games, which hosted a single adaptive division on July 31, Ridgeway earned gold, Schultz earned silver, and Woods earned bronze. Wazny took a respectable fourth place, and Erasmus, Hirachata, and Hammel all placed in the top ten.
The other five events saw dark horses and newcomers join veteran favorites. Oscar Loreto, an Extremity veteran, took gold in Rochester in the skateboarding competition. Games promoters said he “caught air off every feature and landed a huge drop off the staircase to take first place.”
In the city of Pontiac, McKayla Hanson pulled out a gold in the women’s top-rope competition, climbing with speed that reportedly “could cause altitude sickness,” while Craig DeMartino, a well-known Denver champion, cleaned up in both of the rock-climbing divisions for men, top rope and bouldering. Martino was a skilled climber well before his 2002 unilateral transtibial amputation, the aftermath of landing literally on his feet after a 100-foot backward fall off a rock face.
In the wakeboarding competition, held in Davison, 2009 Paralympic world-record sprinter Jim Bob Bizzell came into the contest for the first time and came out with gold around his neck, earning it with what organizers called “insane air above the wake.”
Joel Berman and Kelly Allen reportedly flattened the competition as they harvested first-place finishes in the men’s and women’s kayaking divisions, respectively. Results were not available for the mountain biking contests, which were held along with the motocross divisions at the 85-acre Baja MX facility in Millington.