This week, I’ve been a bit discouraged about the prospect of getting into triathlons on account of three things:
Time: I imagine this will dominate my life for a time, there’s a lot of catch-up for me to do, exercising and researching even how to get into the community. Life-work-exercise-hobby balance I imagine can over-easily turn into work-training balance, and I’m still figuring out: How important is this too me? Am I doing this for the right reasons? Perhaps I should focus on trying to find more local un-official events for swimming and biking.
Resources: Alright, this also could be called “money”. As much as I try not to let money rule my life, it is needed to function in this world. We do what we can to budget to the best of our abilities, but still, just getting ahold of a racing wheelchair seems insurmountable to me right now, let alone traveling to the first event to be classified, and what about actual events after that? As far as I understand through my research to date, in order to compete in any Paralympic event or official triathlon, one has to go through IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Classification. Here’s the information regarding IPC Classification that I am pulling directly from their website:
“IPC Classification – Fair and equal competition
To ensure competition is fair and equal, all Paralympic sports have a system in place which ensures that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus, the same factors that account for success in sport for able bodied athletes.
This process is called classification and its purpose is to minimise the impact of impairments on the activity (sport discipline). Having the impairment thus is not sufficient. The impact on the sport must be proved, and each in Paralympic sport, the criteria of grouping athletes by the degree of activity limitation resulting from the impairment are named ‘Sport Classes’. Through classification, it is determined which athletes are eligible to compete in a sport and how athletes are grouped together for competition. This, to a certain extent, is similar to grouping athletes by age, gender or weight.
Classification is sport-specific because an impairment affects the ability to perform in different sports to a different extent. As a consequence, an athlete may meet the criteria in one sport, but may not meet the criteria in another sport
When an athlete first starts competing he/she undergoes a process to verify the above criteria are met. This process is conducted by a classification panel, a group of individuals authorized and certified by a Sport Federation to determine the sport class of an athlete. The process (typically) includes:
- the verification of the presence of an eligible impairment for that sport
- physical and technical assessment to exam the degree of activity limitation
- the allocation of a sport class
- the observation in competition
When undergoing athlete evaluation, an athlete is only classified for one sport.
If an athlete is not eligible to compete in a sport, this does not question the presence of a genuine impairment. It means:
- that the athlete does not have a primary impairment that makes him/her eligible to compete in that particular sport, or
- that the severity of the impairment does not significantly impact on the activities required in that particular sport.
Due to the progressive nature of some impairment and their impact on certain activities, athletes are sometimes classified a number of times throughout their career.
When the medical condition of an athlete changes, he/she needs to inform the sport as well and ask for re-assessment.
To compete at international level, an athlete must be classified by an International Classification Panel and their decision overrules any previous classification decision taken by a national classification panel.
As a result of the sport specific classification systems, each sport has its own classifiers. For example, an IPC Ice Sledge Hockey classifier is only certified to classify athletes for this sport, and not for other sports.”
So, I need to figure out when, where, and what’s needed of me to get an IPC Classification. Dr.’s Note: That should be relatively easy, I have some supportive health care professionals that I am sure would be willing to work on the forms and needed materials to submit. Although, given I don’t have an “official” diagnosis (not for lack of trying), I can’t help but wonder if that could be a roadblock to this whole process. Can I be considered simply by having Ataxia? Do I have to be ready to participate immediately in the event at/after classification? That last part is a little confusing to me, so far.
I think that CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) could be a possible help towards some of the resources, such as adaptive equipment (race wheelchair), and potential grants for events and training, however, their once a year grant submission/application process, requires that you already have your IPC Classification. Looks like my first priority is sorting the road to my IPC Classification, other pieces may fall into place during or after that process. If you watched the NBC Nightly News tonight, Zelda Williams was featured talking about her father’s (the late Robyn Williams) involvement with CAF.
Age: Typically, I try to live my life without regret. One can get caught up completely in the “what if”, “if only”, “had I” games and lose all forward momentum. Oh, you should absolutely try to learn from your mistakes, just reach that lesson THEN move forward. Having said that, I can’t help but wish I had known about these adaptive athletic opportunities at an earlier age, can I really make my 35 year old body do these things? It’s bad enough having ataxia, add to it an aging body, and an unknown, ticking clock of ability? Sheesh, that could be depressing if I chose to dwell too long. Moving forward! I’m no giving up that easily, and will attempt to spam you with my findings and progression in this endeavor.
Perhaps these opportunities were available to me growing up, I just didn’t know about them. While I am still a part of and will highly recommend the private church school community I came up through, in some ways, I feel like they were not always the best with providing exposure to organizations such as CAF and IPC for students, well, like me, who had to let go of the ever popular athletic programs. To be fair, there is a rub there, anyone remotely like me, faced with deteriorating physical abilities, is going to be stubborn. There’s just as good of a chance of me wanting to get into adaptive sports back then, as not wanting to admit that I was different, that my body was defeating my perceived normalcy.
That last part is a huge deal. How do you make the transition from completely able bodied, to needing help? How do you help someone else make that transition? Honestly, it might be easier if the thing was sudden, as horrible as that thought is, would it be easier to have a traumatic life event forcing you into a new way of life? Would it be easier to be born with a permanent, unchanging disability? There are so many unknowns in that. For me, life seems easier when I have things to plan on, build on, count on.
Just this week, via the twitterverse, I discovered NORD. What is NORD? “The National Organization for Rare Disorders provides advocacy, education, and other services to improve the lives of all people affected by rare diseases.” Alright, now we’re getting somewhere! As much as I question these thoughts about the past, I don’t know that different circumstances would have changed anything, it seems like our society is only recently catching up with discovery, awareness, and advocacy for this stuff. This Saturday, February 28, just so happens to be the official Rare Disease Day! I’m a little late in the game finding and sharing this information, but at the least, check out the website to find out a little more information regarding what NORD is all about.
Until I figure out more, all I can do is keep pedaling, and swimming, many ataxia’s follow the pattern of use it or lose it, and I don’t intend to lose anything for as long as I can. Stay tuned.