By CRAIG DEMARTINO: For Complete Post, Click Here…
It was June of 2006. I was standing alongside vendors in flat, hot, humid Florida looking at a large crowd of adaptive athletes. Some were missing limbs, like myself. Others were visually impaired. Still others had neurologic-related disabilities. Around and in between us, the smell of fried food permeated the air.
The sounds of the dunk tank and ring toss were a distraction as I tried to get my bearings on how this would all work. Despite the chalk bags and harnesses, it felt much more like a circus than a climbing comp.
I saw the orange Mohawk first, then realized the person approaching me was missing both legs and one arm. His gait was choppy, and he swerved between the masses of people.
Usually, this sight wouldn’t rock me, but missing this many things had to have a good story.
“I’m here to check out climbing, and I hear you know a lot about it,” he said upon reaching me. He smiled nonchalantly, further piquing my interest.
After introductions, I asked the thing I never ask: “What the heck happened?!”
As it turns out, he fell asleep on some train tracks and, well, you can guess the rest. Like me, he wanted to be around people who were dealing with similar challenges.
Walking from the vendors to the wall, other athletes and I prepared to compete in the first annual Extremity Games, which was the first adaptive climbing comp. Based on speed, the climbing comp took place on a portable wall made of clear plexiglass. The holds were slippery and it was hot as hell, but the support from the spectators for each and every athlete was amazing.
I could tell then I had become a part of a truly different group of humans.