Indoor rowing and adaptive golf events finish up at 38th National Veterans Wheelchair Games on Thursday
By John Groth
Athletes try indoor rowing at the new exhibition at the 38th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Orlando, Fla. at the Orange County Convention Center on Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Photo by Courtney Cooper)
After competing in indoor rowing Thursday afternoon, Jeremiah Lucas was considerably out of breath and exhausted at the 38th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. But, oh, was he smiling inside the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
Looking for something different to try, the 43-year-old Army veteran signed up for the exhibition event to test it out. A Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Kentucky-Indiana Chapter member, he finished first in the group he competed in – and although tired, he loved it.
“It was great. That was great. If it’s in the Games next year, I’m definitely going to do it,” said Lucas, who sustained an L3 injury in 2013. He was diagnosed with spinal-cord tumors in 2012, had spinal-cord surgery on them in 2013 and has been in a wheelchair since 2014. “I’m more into competing against myself and bettering myself every year than I am competing against other people.”
That’s what he liked about indoor rowing.
“If you go hard, it’s a very intense cardio workout and it’ll get your heart rate up and it’ll get your breath pumping, that’s for sure,” said Lucas, who served from 1995-2015 as an infantryman and career counselor.
Two exhibition events – indoor rowing and adaptive golf – headlined the NVWG, co-sponsored by PVA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Thursday. It marked the second and final day of the indoor rowing event, which ran Wednesday and Thursday, and the introduction of the three-hole adaptive golf event.
Tammy Lawter participates in the golf exhibition at the 38th National Veterans Wheelchair Games on Thursday, August 2, 2018 at Shingle Creek Golf Course in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Courtney Cooper)
Additionally, wheelchair bowling, air pistol, slalom or obstacle course, table tennis, quad rugby and power soccer events continued Thursday at the Orange County Convention Center.
Another PVA Kentucky-Indiana Chapter member, Ted Rake had a more difficult time with indoor rowing.
An Army veteran, Rake has two injuries – a lower left leg service-connected injury sustained in 1995 during a training exercise and MS, which he was diagnosed with eight years ago.
About a minute into the indoor rowing competition, his left side gave out on him – and he had to pull with only his right side.
“I was going probably too hard, too fast,” said the 48-year-old Rake. “If I would’ve had more of a normal steady pace and it wasn’t a race, it probably would’ve been a little different.”
This marked Rake’s first NVWG that he’s competed in. The Louisville resident attended last year’s Games in Cincinnati but only as an observer. This year, he put javelin, bowling and boccia ball on the list along with indoor rowing. He also learned an important lesson.
“It taught me it’s a good exercise as more of a moderate cardio type of exercise,” said Rake, who served from 1992-95 in communications. “But high-intensity, no, that was bad. It was just too much for my illness.”
Golf was quite a workout, too, especially in some sweltering humid and hot conditions.
Held at Shingle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, the adaptive golf event allowed wheelchair athletes to test out their iron and putting skills and even get some advice from caddies.
Instead of hitting from the tees in tee boxes, athletes hit from tees specifically placed in the ground from around 150-200 yards out. They played three holes – the par-5 eighth, par-4 ninth and par-4 10th holes on the course.
PVA National President David Zurfluh participated in the golf exhibition, but the Air Force veteran had more trouble trying to work his ParaGolfer golf cart from the golf course than hitting the ball. After the first hole (No. 8), he acknowledged he was having trouble maneuvering the ParaGolfer, an all-terrain wheelchair that raises the user into a standing position, to allow a more conventional golf swing, on concrete surfaces. Then, halfway to the third hole (No. 10), it barely moved on them at all. A mechanic stopped by to see what happened and thought the ParaGolfer had overheated. That malfunction cost Zurfluh the chance to play the final hole, as he had to go slowly motor back and return the ParaGolfer.
“I was bummed I couldn’t do the last hole cause it took me a hole and a half to figure out, well, I didn’t have my own clubs, so they’re borrowed clubs and borrowed clubs are hard to figure out instantly,” Zurfluh said. “No practice, cold start. But I had a good putt on the second hole – I missed it about 2 inches from about 20 feet out.”
But Zurfluh was pleased with the turnout, which he thought totaled between 30-40 people and they filled the event’s athlete list up.
“I like it a lot,” he said. “Any exhibition is going to have its kink, but I think by the turnout people are motivated to play this game.”
One of those motivated athletes was 53-year old Kearney, Neb., resident Tammy Lawter. An Army veteran, Lawter had a couple reasons to sign up. She wanted to see if she could learn some tips to help her reduce strokes and she wanted to meet Anthony Netto, the founder of the Stand Up and Play Foundation, along with KidSwing International. He’s traveled throughout the country to help promote active standing therapy programs. Lawter, who sustained a T4 complete injury Feb. 11, 1994, after a single-car accident in Florence, S.C., met Netto at a Paralyzed Veterans Golf Open tournament a few years ago outside of Washington, D.C. She eventually got a ParaGolfer thanks to StandUp and Play and The Independence Foundation for her own personal use at home.
“Oh I loved it. I had a great person helping me here. The volunteers are awesome,” said Lawter about the tournament.
Lawter, who served from 1986-1995 in the signal corps and as a medical service officer, was a fan of both exhibition events. Although she didn’t participate in indoor rowing, the PVA Kentucky-Indiana Chapter member does practice it and received some advice to help her with a broken rowing machine at the gym she works out at in Nebraska.
“I talked to a lady about how to fix a rower for a gym that I go to and hopefully they can fix it so I can use it how she described and stuff,” Lawter said. “So yeah, pretty excited about that.”