This past weekend, Athletes Without Limits athlete Jack Elston had his first race in his attempt to qualify for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He competed in the open 400 meter race at the Lewis & Clark College Spring Break Open.
Athletes Without Limits (AWL) was created in 2009 to become the US member of the international charity INAS and made it possible for US athletes with intellectual disability to compete for the first time in open international competition. Barry Holman, AWL Board President, reached out to me in 2014 to discuss the possibility of opening a training hub for Paralympic athletes with intellectual disabilities in the Pacific Northwest. I didn't need much convincing since it presented a great opportunity for Specialty Athletic Training to give back to the community and help local athletes reach their Olympic dreams. Finding athletes became the challenge, until Jack came along.
Jack started personal training sessions with me and Specialty Athletic Training in October of 2015. Right away I noticed that there was something different about Jack. Many of our clients have had a negative experience with exercise in the past, so we focus on making it fun and teach them the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Jack was the complete opposite. He was a fierce competitor and made it known immediately that he wanted to be challenged every workout. He would send me text messages on his ride to Specialty Athletic Training to tell me that he was ready to make his body stronger and wanted to leave sweaty and tired. He loved competition and the process of getting better, a perfect fit for what we had been looking for as a prospective athlete to train for the Paralympic games.
I guided Jack's parents to the Athletes Without Limits website and informed them that I felt that it would be a great opportunity for Jack. I didn't know if he would meet the eligibility requirements. They promptly told me that they felt he would meet the qualifications and began the eligibility process.
Fast forward to the present. Jack trains twice a week at Lewis & Clark College, where he receives instruction from myself and the L&C sprints coach, Maile Krumpschmidt. He competed in his first EVER meet alongside over 700 collegiate athletes! Maile and I set a goal for Jack of breaking the 70 second mark, something that he had not yet done. When relaying this to Jack as we walked over to the meet officials to check Jack in for his race, he wasn't happy with the goal that we set for him. His response? "I'm going to win this thing!"
Jack did not win, but did break the 70 second mark for the first time and set a new personal record by 8 seconds.
Jack pictured with some of the University of Oregon track team members.
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS is the head trainer and founder of Specialty Athletic Training. He a member of the Autism Society of Oregon's Board of Directors and is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Ryan has worked with individuals with special needs since 2007 and has over 10,000 hours of 1:1 instruction working with individuals that have various special needs.