One of the greatest adventures for adaptive athletes is the annual Adventure TEAM Challenge in Grand Junction, Colorado. For many with disabilities, competing against other teams of disabled and able-bodied participants in the two day event from World T.E.A.M. Sports is a positive and inspiring experience.
Held on September 13-15 in the scenic McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction near the Utah state line, the non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports brings together teams of five persons for the Challenge. Each team includes two persons with disabilities, one being a wheelchair user. Since the inaugural Challenge in 2007, disabilities of participating athletes have ranged from individuals who are missing limbs to veterans with PTSD and TBI to blind and quadriplegic athletes. For many of the athletes with disabilities, the Challenge provides an initial opportunity to get outdoors and off pavement into a wilderness environment.
Teams competing in the Challenge include corporate sponsored teams, military teams and private teams of friends and colleagues. Many corporate teams use the Challenge as an opportunity to develop close relationships with clients in a challenging outdoor sporting event, as well as provide support for disabled athletes. Other teams look to the Challenge as an opportunity to build teamwork and a strong innovative relationship between colleagues.
Cooperation and team building is a key to success at the Challenge, in which teams pedal mountain bikes across rocky, steep trails, paddle the Colorado River through remote sandstone canyons and navigate by map and compass across the desert of the high Colorado Plateau. Throughout the course, additional challenges, such as rock climbing, rappelling and a zip line, add adventure and excitement for team members.
Balancing difficulties and safety considerations for the course, Billy Mattison, course designer, created a route that challenged experienced adventure athletes but is not too difficult for adaptive athletes. With each team including one member who is a wheelchair user, the course must allow for teams to tow or push a cart or a hand cycle. In the deep red sand of the desert, this is not always easy. But in 2012, the first year for the Challenge at the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, all 14 teams completed the course. More importantly, the participants were satisfied with their accomplishment.
The event was sponsored by Fidelity & Guaranty Life, Penske Truck Rental and Timberline Tours, the Challenge is one of many inclusive events for disabled and able-bodied athletes from the non-profit organization, celebrating 20 years in 2013.
Photo by Peter Wayne