Future Rockford area paratriathletes dive right into training - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Future Rockford area paratriathletes dive right into training

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Jack O'Neil Jack O'Neil
James Gilbank (right) James Gilbank (right)

Athletes in the Rockford region train for their first triathlon. The race itself will be tough, but these guys are used to battling obstacles. They live with physical disabilities.

In exactly one month, the Rockford area will see its first paratriathlon, combining events on dry land and underwater, which is perfect for one participant.

"I'm a swimmer and I love to swim." -says 10 year-old Loves Park resident Jack O'Neil. He's used to a challenge.

"I was born with a smaller leg than the other and I had a shoe lift on the bottom of my shoe and it just kept getting too big and my knee wasn't working right. So, either I would have to go through a couple major surgeries which still probably wouldn't work, so I just chose to amputate it." -he explains.

He's excited to show off his swimming skills in the Paratriathlon Kids Race. Rockford Chariots Wheelchair Athletic Association member James Gilbank has also lived with his disability since birth.

"I was born with spina bifida, so I've been in a wheelchair all my life. I've done multiple activities and I'm always looking for new, competitive things to try." -he says.

For James, the race's distance is a little nerve-wracking, but the competitive nature is what draws him to it. He's also comfortable in the water.

"I have a pool at my house, so I'm a recreational swimmer. We'll find out how good I am competitively." -he says with a smile.

The race is hosted by Peak Sports Club and an organization called Dare 2 Tri, co-founded by world champion paratriathlete and paralympic swimmer Melissa Stockwell. She helped put on Wednesday's free clinic at the ID Pennock Family YMCA pool in Rockford.

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