The Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing Team is sending 20 athletes to Huntsville for the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, April 17-18 in Cummings Research Park.
They will stay on Redstone Arsenal April 13-19, according to Jody Shiflett, director of racing and fitness for Paralyzed Veterans of America. PVA is a veterans service organization out of Washington, D.C.
The athletes compete on nontraditional bikes. About half the team members are paralyzed veterans. The other half have had traumatic brain injury, amputations or illnesses such as multiple sclerosis. Two of these 20 athletes are women.
“We’re eager to get back to some sense of normalcy in competitive cycling,” Shiflett said. “And we’re optimistic that we can do so and be successful. And part of that success would be keeping our team safe all the way back home.”
They come from Hawaii, California, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Illinois, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Alabama.
“This is a very important event, especially for the time of year. It’s officially kicking off our season,” Shiflett said.
Leaders of the Huntsville/Madison County community were excited to announce that U.S. Paralympics Cycling will visit the Rocket City in April, as it begins its national calendar in preparation for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer. They will host one of four domestic cycling events, the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, the second opportunity for cyclists to qualify for Tokyo.
The events will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 17-18, in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park, the second largest research park in the nation and fourth largest in the world. Time trials will be held on Saturday, and road races will be held on Sunday. Approximately 100 para athletes are expected to compete in the weekend’s cycling events.
“Huntsville is honored to host a world-class event for the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in 2021,” Mayor Tommy Battle said. “We’re a city that embraces a competitive spirit in all that we do, and the Paralympics adds another dimension to a community that respects and admires high performance. We’re excited for the opportunity to experience the skill, determination, and athletic prowess of these outstanding athletes and for all those who dare to dream and excel.”
The athletes will compete in three different types of road cycling events including the men’s and women’s road race, individual time trial, and handcycling team relay.
Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling, and three-time Paralympian Oz Sanchez participated in Thursday’s announcement.
“As we re-chart our path to Tokyo, we are eager to safely get our athletes back on the road for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling, said. “With over 100 athletes competing to represent Team USA in 2021, this will be one of our largest domestic events of the year.”
Nationally, Toyota is proud to partner with U.S. Paralympics Cycling, and the company will also sponsor the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville. Additional local sponsors will be announced in the future.
“We are thrilled that the City of Huntsville is hosting the 2021 U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open Presented by Toyota,” Dedra DeLilli, group manager, Olympic and Paralympic marketing, Toyota Motor North America, said. “Huntsville means a lot to us at Toyota, so it’s great to see that the city will play such an important role by hosting this event. As a proud partner of Team USA and U.S. Paralympics Cycling, we look forward to extending Toyota hospitality to the athletes and event staff. I know our exceptional team members at Toyota Alabama are excited for such an important event for Team USA to take place in their city.”
Medalist Sports is organizing the events, and the team visited Huntsville in October to view different areas for race course options and discuss planning and logistics with representatives of the City of Huntsville and Huntsville Police Department. They also met with representatives of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, Cummings Research Park, and the Huntsville Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Cummings Research Park has been the site of several events for runners and cyclists over the years,” Erin Koshut, the park’s executive director, said. “With our wide streets, plenty of miles, low vehicle traffic on weekends and great locations for spectators, CRP is well suited to play host to these exemplary athletes on their journey to Tokyo. I know our more than 320 companies look forward to supporting the athletes and the Paralympics in this endeavor.”
“Huntsville is known around the globe as a hub for innovation and exploration, and hosting an event of this stature really underscores our city’s reputation as a go-to destination for events,” Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. “For the planners, we look forward to a seamless event execution, and for the athletes, providing a memorable experience in the Rocket City. We hope the athletes, families, officials and fans will take the opportunity to enjoy the attractions and amenities that Huntsville has to offer while visiting.”
A good portion of these athletes are veterans, according to Claire Aiello, vice president for marketing and communications for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.
This includes the Paralyzed Veterans Racing team.