Adaptive triathlon gives people with disabilities a chance to hear "yes"
COLUMBIA – If you ask Jennifer Diermann, giving into peer pressure isn’t always that bad.
“One of the PT students that was a year above me came back from a clinical in St. Louis where they host a triathlon every fall,” Diermann said. “She said, there is this awesome event. I wish we could do that in Columbia, so we said sure let’s do it.”
One year later, Diermann and a few of her physical therapy classmates opened the second annual a triathlon on the University of Missouri campus. Only, this triathlon was a little different. This was an adapted triathlon.
“I think it’s the opportunity to not have to be told no,” Diermann said. “Here we have the adaptive bikes, we have the different flotation devices for swimming, and the ways you need to finish the run.”
Serving as both helpers and cheerleaders, two buddies accompany the athletes through the entire event. Trained in physical therapy, the students use their knowledge and training to put their athletes in the best position to have a great time. Volunteer buddy Brooke Wilde thinks the support goes well beyond practical training.
“To help their bodies work the way they are supposed to work is such a blessing and it’s been something I’m very excited I’m able to do,” Wilde said. “It’s just a really cool interaction between all three of us as a buddy, and then between the parent and the child.”
Wilde was happy to help, but for one competitor’s mom, the buddies did so much more.
“Actually having the support for him was great, and I actually got to take a step back and actually watch my child have fun,” Ashley Arnold said. “It was so much fun to actually watch Bradley interact with two other students here at Mizzou.”
Ashley’s son Bradley, who was diagnosed with Spina Bifida before birth, and 44 other athletes crossed the finish line after swimming, biking and running with two buddies by their sides.
Diermann said yes to her friends suggestion, giving these athletes the opportunity to do the same. She looks forward to seeing this event continue to grow long after she graduates.
“It makes me so excited that it’s going to keep going even after I graduate from Mizzou.”