News

Nov 28, 2017

Rio 2016 Paralympian Guided by Elite Ultra Marathoner, Michael Wardian

Paralympian, Chaz Davis surprised us all last December when he broke an American record in the B2 visual impairment category in his debut marathon. Davis finished the California International Marathon in an impressive 2:31:48, winning the 2016 U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Marathon National Championship title in the men’s division. And this just months after competing in the 1500m and 5000m events at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The following month, elite ultra-marathoner, Michael Wardian won the 2017 World Marathon Championships – a seven-day tour across the seven continents for seven marathons – in record time, averaging 2:45:57 for each.

Both runners have proven their well-earned elevated status in the running community and on December 3rd, they will be taking on the 2017 U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Marathon National Championships together.

Each year, the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) hosts their marathon national championships in conjunction with the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento. Since the CIM established a visually impaired division in 2007, participation of blind and visually impaired runners has grown from 2 to nearly 50. Participants include blinded Military Veterans, Paralympic athletes, World Champions, and many novice runners just beginning their running careers.

Before becoming legally blind his freshman year of college, running was an individual sport for Davis. When he began losing his sight due to Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, a rare disease that destroys the optic nerve in the eye, it became a team sport. Davis would now have to rely on guides to help him navigate trails and race courses. He ran his first CIM as part of a relay team, running the first half of the course before a teammate and his guide completed the second half.

Finding sighted guides for runners who are blind and visually impaired isn’t always easy, and it’s even more difficult to find guides who can keep up with elite runners like Davis.

“For me, guides are essential in my race success,” said Davis. “But finding a guide is always a stressful experience.”

Enter USABA Volunteer Coordinator, Richard Hunter, who plays matchmaker for runners and guides for the USABA Marathon each year and helps eliminate the stress runners often feel when trying to find a guide who is willing to donate their time, money and race schedule to help someone else.

“Richard took great time and effort in locating guides for me,” said Davis. “Last year was perfect and this year, when Richard mentioned Michael Wardian potentially guiding me for part of the race, I was thrilled with the prospect!”
With four 100-milers, two 100ks, two 50-milers, two 50ks, 12 marathons and countless more races completed in 2016 alone, plus numerous world records and three Olympic Marathon Trials qualifications, Wardian was a perfect match for Chaz’s speedy sub 2:30 goal for the 2017 USABA Marathon. But it’s also the pair’s common drive towards the next challenge that make them a great runner-guide duo.

“I like to find something new that interests me every year,” said Wardian. “I like seeing what I’m able to do and not limiting myself. I’ll do anything from a 1-mile race to a 400k race.”

The 2017 USABA Marathon National Championships will be Wardian’s first formal guiding experience.

“I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to give back to the running community and tailor that to a specific race,” said Wardian. “It’s hard to find people that are not in it all for themselves. I look forward to helping Chaz do something unprecedented.”

Davis recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices made by guides like Wardian and the more than 70 volunteer sighted guides that will run on Sunday.

“As blind runners, we are constantly relying on one, if not more, guides for any race that we would like to run,” said Davis. “All of the guides sacrifice time, money and their own racing schedule in order to help us attain our own goals. Visually impaired athletes of all speeds benefit from the dedication of the generous people guiding us.”

“People are often inspired by a blind runner accomplishing incredible feats. However, the guides that run alongside us are instrumental in our success and we could not even begin to enjoy our athletic dreams without the support of the selfless people that help us each day. Having a well-known runner come out and guide one of us only helps spread the word about visually impaired runners, what we can do, and how anyone can help us accomplish these goals. Running alongside such an accomplished distance runner as Mike will be an amazing experience.”

Davis will run alongside Wardian as his guide for the first half of the marathon on Sunday, December 3, in Sacramento. The two will meet up with Davis’s second guide at the exchange.

If you’re interested in serving as a volunteer guide or you are in need of a sighted guide, contact U.S. Association of Blind Athletes or visit UnitedInStride.com to find a running partner near you.


Nov 27, 2017

Giving Tuesday

Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a global movement that celebrates generosity and giving back. Will you join us? Making a tax-deductible donation to USABA this Giving Tuesday empowers Americans who are blind and visually impaired through sport and physical activity. You can have a personal impact on communities across the nation by investing in USABA Ski Camps this Giving Tuesday.

Last year, four-year-old Zoe attended our camp with her brother, Logan. Both were diagnosed with a rare genetic eye disease very early in life. Their parents also attended the camp and were inspired and grateful for the opportunity their children received in learning how to ski with USABA.

When U.S. Navy Veteran, Calvin Poole attended his first USABA ski camp, learning to ski was exhilarating but it was the community of people he got to know that left him wanting more. Calvin is now involved in many of our sports camps and recently established the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes, a USABA Sports Club, after experiencing the impact sports had on his life. Like us, Calvin finds joy in bringing others together through sport.

 

Sports and recreation programs build something special inside each of us - teamwork, dedication, self-confidence, independence. USABA athletes exhibit these characteristics and more when they are empowered to triumph over adversity. By supporting USABA today, on Giving Tuesday, you are empowering and inspiring youth, adults and blinded military veterans through participation in a 2018 USABA Ski Camp.

A gift of $500.00 provides a scholarship for one athlete to attend a USABA Ski Camp in Breckenridge, Colorado, or Killington, Vermont. Please consider providing a full or partial scholarship for youth athletes like Zoe and Logan and Military Veteran athletes like Calvin to attend a USABA Ski Camp in 2018. Your investment in someone’s well-being has the potential to change lives.

Will you join us in empowering and inspiring blind athletes across the U.S. on this Giving Tuesday by making a tax-deductible donation?

P.S. Are you on Facebook? If you donate via the “donate” button on our Facebook page, your gift will be matched! So, if you donate on Facebook, your $500 donation would actually provide TWO full scholarships to a 2018 USABA Ski Camp.


Nov 09, 2017

USABA Competitive and Recreational Community Sports Integration Project for Veterans

A key component of military service, regardless of the era, is challenging one’s physical abilities. Remember all of those long ruck marches, unit fun runs, and PT tests? Yes, like many of you I try not to as well, but one cannot argue against the amount of research and information about the benefits of exercise to combat adverse health and mental health conditions. More importantly, organizations like USABA, Team Red, White, and Blue, Achilles, and your local sporting groups built tremendous communities with a vested interest in the well-being of those who elect to participate.

USABA just rolled out a new program aiming to encourage visually impaired Veterans’ participation in local adaptive sporting and athletic events. The Community Sports Integration Project funds visually impaired Veterans registration and travel, so that they have the opportunity to participate in competitive and recreational sports in their local and regional community. Through a VA adaptive sporting grant, USABA will provide Veterans reimbursements for entry fees for the following events:
• 5k to marathons
• Cycling events
• Triathlons, (Sprint and Olympic distance only)
• Powerlifting meets
• Rowing regattas
• Challenge events like Tuff Mudders and Warrior Dashes
• Swim meets
• Other competitions and tournaments for golfing, bowling, sailing, and other sporting and athletic events.

* Please note, multi-day events, camps, and ‘tours’ will not be considered. Likewise, events utilizing funds from the VA Adaptive Sports Grant will not be covered due to VA policies. Veterans will be provided t-shirts and other apparel to wear while competing when sport applicable. 

Any visually impaired Veteran may apply, regardless of your age, whether you are recreationally participating or fighting to win, or location. Funding is available on a first come, first serve basis for any event starting November 10th, 2017 until September 30th, 2018. If this interests you, here are the project’s guidelines:
1. Contact the project coordinator with information about the event you wish to participate. The coordinator will provide initial approval, along with a packet containing USABA apparel to wear during the event.
2. Participate in the event wearing the USABA apparel and share a photo of you on social media with the tags, USABA and VA Adaptive Sports. If you do not have any social media accounts, send the project coordinator a photo of you so they might perform this step.
3.  Submit your official result to the project coordinator. This can be submitted as a link to race results or a printed result.
4. Mileage stipends will be considered for events more than 50 miles away one way. Stipends will be capped at $75. Please seek approval before regional events from the project coordinator.
5. Reimbursements must be submitted to the project coordinator by the 10th of each month to receive
 the same month. Reimbursements may cover the registration costs for both the Veteran and their sighted guide (if the activity requires one) and travel up to $75 (waivers are available).
6. 
A current USABA membership is required to participate in the program.  Click here for the membership sign up page.  

If you have questions, please contact the project coordinator before your event. The project coordinators are:

Timothy Hornik
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(785) 330-3503

Kevin Brousard
Membership & Outreach Coordinator, USABA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(719) 866-3019
 


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