The Ottumwa Courier

March 26, 2013

Ottumwa native gets closer to Paralympic dream

ANDY HEINTZ
Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA —  The news, while welcome, caught Kristin Brown by surprise.

Brown, an Ottumwa native with cerebral palsy who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., dreams of competing in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Her vehicle of choice for reaching this goal is the trike. Her embrace of the bike is influenced by the fact that the trike category is free of female Americans, thus providing a window of opportunity to someone game enough to give the sport a whirl.

But Brown’s blueprint has experienced its share of hiccups because of equipment-related difficulties that have kept her from riding. These setbacks, however, didn’t stop her from being invited to a Cycling Development Camp from May 1-8 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I was shocked because they haven’t seen me on the bike,” Brown said.

The invitation was made on behalf of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes, Disabled Sports USA, U.S. Handcyling and the U.S. Paralympics.

The camp isn’t your everyday run-of-the-mill camp: It features instructions from Paralympic coaches. And, for Brown — and other Paralympic aspirants — it represents an important first step towards turning her Paralympic dream into a reality.

“You live at the training center,” Brown said. “You eat, sleep and breath there. You work with them [coaches] 24-7 on everything: Diet, sleep, heart rate and training regimens.”

She said the invite was probably influenced by the fact that she’s the only female in the country in the trike category.

Luckily, Brown has solved her equipment problems. Initially, she struggled to come up with a way to modify her bike in a way that meshed with her physical characteristics, namely that her left leg is at a 45 degree angle because of hip dysplasia.

“My problem is my left heel hits the crank arm when I’m pushing towards the ground,” Brown previously said.

After a lengthy search, snowboard binding turned out to be the perfect elixir.

“We had to attach snowboard binding to the pedal to accommodate the angle of my left leg,” Brown said.

With that obstacle overcome, Brown is focused on putting in the hours to prepare for camp and, hopefully, an eventual spot on  in the 2016 Paralympics.

“Now I just need it to quit snowing to go out on it [the trike],” Brown said. “This year and next year will be about experience and moving up the rankings and the third year will be about placing well in the international circuit to be considered for a spot in the Paralympics.”

To prepare for the camp, she will compete in the 2013 Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series at Cherry Creek State Park that runs  from April 10 to May 22 in Aurora, Colo. The race is one of the primary fundraisers for the Bicycling Racing Association of Colorado and  a substantial amount of the proceeds will go to the Cancer Fitness Institute. In addition, Brown has entered the national Para-Cycling Open in Greenville, SC April 20-21.

Brown’s initial interest in cycling was sparked by a chance encounter with Dawna Callahan, a Paralympic Military Manager for the U.S. Olympic Committee, in 2009 at an airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Callahan who, because of her work with veterans, knew Brown had cerebral palsy, educated her about all the para-cycling and other adaptive sports opportunities available in Colorado. The conversation provided the impetus — after many trips from her then-home in Omaha, Neb. to Colorado — for Brown’s eventual move to Colorado. Brown lived in Ottumwa through high school before she moved to Nebraska to attend the College of St. Mary.

At the start of her para-cycling venture, Brown specialized in handcycling. She even competed in a Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. But, with a little encouragement from  para-cycling recruiter and U.S. National Road Team Coach Rick Babbington and U.S. paralympic cyclist and former Navy Officer Steve Peace, a friend and mentor to Brown; she decided to switch to the trike category.

Brown was convinced to make the switch to the trike when she caught a glimpse of Peace’s trike in June 2012.