Guest Column: An inside look into my journey to the 2016 Paralympics

Erin Scala shown using a handcycle at the Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Erin Scala shown using a handcycle at the Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Courtesy of Erin Scala

In this camp, there were two other tandem teams. Both were male teams. The other 20 people consisted of injured military or people who were paralyzed. Those who were injured in the military with traumatic brain injuries usually rode an upright single bike. The individuals, who are paralyzed, rode hand cycles. They control the whole bike with their hands and arms, and instead of pedals, they push with a rowing type motion. I met many amazing people and I was fascinated by their stories. I laughed whenever anyone would ask what my story was. Compared to a person who was blown up nine times by an Improvised Explosive Device overseas, losing your sight was no big deal at all.

I was at the Olympic Training Center for a week. There was no competitiveness at all. Whenever we raced, you could always hear others yelling “great job,” “keep it up,” and “you got this.” Every day, I woke up around 7 a.m., walked to the cafeteria for breakfast, went back to the room to change into my bike gear, and went outside to hop on the bike and wait for our instructions. We left the campus around 9 a.m., returning around 12:30 p.m. At this point, we took our showers, put normal clothes on, went to the cafeteria for lunch, came back to our rooms, put our bike gear on, and then hopped back on the bike around 2 p.m. Around 5:30 p.m., we returned to campus, took another shower, had dinner, and then went to our nightly meeting from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Our meetings consisted of discussing our day, our race results, nutrition before and during a race, and other topics revolving around biking. When this was all over, we went back to the dorms, and mingled with one another. At first, we talked about our stories, why we were there, and where we were from. After the first night, everyone seemed to get along as if we knew each other for more than a few days. It was like a family, each person looking out for one another, and all there for the same reasons. We would say that we put the word “fun” in the word “dysfunctional.”

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