University Paralympic athletes prepare for Boston marathon

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An athlete makes use of the recently upgraded Paralympic facility at the University on Friday, April 3.

By Liz Jassin

After five years, renovations of the University’s Paralympic training facility are complete, just in time for athletes to finish preparing for the April 20 Boston Marathon.

The renovations, which were funded by the United States Olympic Committee and British Petroleum, provided the University’s 23 Paralympic athletes with 10 new rollers and three times the space.

The rollers are similar to treadmills, and five rollers are equipped with KICKR bike trainer devices, which add resistance to simulate biking uphill, said Maureen Gilbert, Disability Resources and Education Services coordinator. Several rollers also have monitors attached to track the athletes’ workouts and give immediate feedback on their speed and power output.

The rollers will eventually have video cameras to monitor athletes’ strokes and allow them to see how they are sitting in the chair, Gilbert said.

Amanda McGrory, a University alumna who is competing in the Boston Marathon, said she was able to use topography to increase the intensity of the new rollers to match the path of the Boston Marathon.

“The best part about it is that our history can now be public,” Gilbert said. “A lot of people knew about our program prior to us being designated as a training center because of our outstanding athletes and our outstanding coaches, however now it is very visual.”

Arielle Rausin, junior in Business, who is currently training for the Boston Marathon, said the new facility will give those who participate in marathons an advantage in the race.

“This newly renovated space gives us a great competitive edge when training for marathons as important as Boston,” Rausin said. “The new equipment that was donated really helps simulate what it will feel like on race day, and the more opportunities we have to train in that environment, the better we can be.”

The renovation has not only been a “motivational transformation,” Rausin said, but has also created more awareness about wheelchair athletics at the University, which she believes will help the University become more inclusive.

Rausin said the reason she decided to attend the University was because of its wheelchair track training site.

“With this renovation, I finally feel that our program is getting the recognition it deserves,” Rausin said. “BP’s donation was not only very generous, but it also helped to legitimize wheelchair athletics at the University of Illinois so we can have the same amount of support from the student body that other varsity teams receive.”

Gilbert said the facility also includes a wall of fame displaying athletes who have won medals for various track events or have attended past Paralympic or Olympic.

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