Illinois will be well represented at the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field World Championships which takes place from October 22-31 in Doha, Qatar. Eleven of the 84 athletes that make up the Team USA roster are from our campus: Chelsea McClammer, Ray Martin, Hannah McFadden, Aaron Pike, Kelsey LeFevour, Jill Moore, Brian Siemann, James Senbeta, Susannah Scaroni, Jessica Rogers and Yen Hoang.
Adam Bleakney, wheelchair track coach for Illinois, said he is extremely proud of his athletes and the opportunity to highlight the program.
“We have a tradition of excellence here,” he said. “And any time there is a spotlight on us, we see it as an opportunity to enlighten and inform about our program which for decades has been at the leading edge of performance and development and outreach. We take great pride in that.”
The competition includes a variety of events: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 4×100 m relay, 4×400 m relay, long jump, triple jump, high jump, shot put, discus throw, javelin throw and club throw. The competition also includes a marathon portion, but that event took place on April 26 as part of the 2015 London Marathon. The event is the biggest international track and field event before the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“We’re thrilled to bring our largest team ever to world championships,” Cathy Sellers, U.S. Paralympics track and field high performance director said. “With less than a year to Rio, Doha will set the ultimate stage for our athletes to prove themselves against the world’s best before the Paralympic Games next September. We hope to have as much success from Team USA’s 52-medal performance at the 2013 world championships with our seasoned veterans and promising newcomers.”
According to the United States Olympic Committee, in 2013, the last year the competition was held, Team USA recorded the most medals in track and field history at a Paralympic Games or world championships with 52 medals—17 gold, 18 silver and 17 bronze. Team USA was just one medal short of winning the medal count and broke five world records.
Illinois athletes Chelsea McClammer, Ray Martin, Hannah McFadden, Kelsey LeFevour, Brian Siemann and Susannah Scaroni were all part of the 2013 team to return again this year.
Sellers praised the Illinois wheelchair track program and philosophy.
“University of Illinois is the best wheelchair program in the world,” she said. “It’s kind of a hidden program within the school, but it has a long legacy of producing elite level athletes. It’s the only program in the world that I know of where they can be a student-athlete.”
The distinction follows many other successes by Illinois wheelchair athletes, including Tatyana McFadden’s recent sixth win in the Chicago Marathon wheelchair race on October 11. And though the program has had much success, Bleakney stressed that the training focuses on much more than just winning.
“When we compete, we compete to win,” he said, “but our athletes are ambassadors and see athletics really as a vehicle to a greater end. Our philosophy, our training, our development is to produce great human beings first.”