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Thread: Boston race latest notch on her wheelchair

  1. #1
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Boston race latest notch on her wheelchair

    Boston race latest notch on her wheelchair

    By Rob Zaleski
    May 5, 2003

    A year earlier - after she had finished second in her first Boston Marathon - people were asking, "Who in the world is Christina Ripp?"

    But nobody was asking that question two weeks ago after the 22-year-old Ripp - a senior at the University of Illinois and a 1998 graduate of Lodi High School - put on a stirring finish through the streets of downtown Boston to win the women's wheelchair division of the world's most famous road race.

    "It was almost like disbelief," Ripp says of crossing the finish line in one hour, 54 minutes, 47 seconds before thousands of screaming spectators and a worldwide TV audience. "I kept thinking, is this really happening? Did I actually win the Boston Marathon?"

    She also admitted in a phone interview being somewhat surprised that her victory went largely unnoticed by the Madison media. After all, she grew up in the village of Dane, has competed in basketball and road races in the Badger State Games and has been a key player on the U.S. women's wheelchair basketball team since 1998.

    In any event, Ripp says a final burst of adrenaline enabled her to defeat runner-up Cheri Blauwet of San Lorenzo, Calif. - the only other American in the event - by a mere 10 seconds. Defending champion Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland was a distant third.

    Ripp - who has spinal bifida, a birth defect that has left her paralyzed from the waist down - says she'll not soon forget the tumultuous scene immediately after the race. She was whisked off to a news conference and then, shortly after, was mobbed by a group of supporters from the University of Illinois, including her coach, Marty Morse.


    When she finally got back to her hotel room, Ripp says, there were about 10 messages waiting for her - including one from her mom, Amy Michels of Dane, who had watched the race on ESPN.

    "She was so happy she was crying," Ripp says. But she had become so upset while watching the race, Ripp says, that "she wanted to kick the TV."

    Why?

    "Because the ESPN announcer kept calling me Rupp," Ripp says with a groan. "Now all my teammates call me Rupp."

    Michels, a carpenter in Marshall Erdman & Associates' Waunakee office, admits she got a little carried away watching the event, but says she was hardly surprised by her daughter's victory.

    "She's always been extremely competitive, even when she first started playing basketball when she was 9 or 10," Michels says. "She's not about to let a guy beat her, for instance. That's always been her attitude."

    Though basketball remains Ripp's first love - she actually was recruited to play basketball at Illinois, which is one of only a few colleges in the country to offer wheelchair sports - she began getting serious about road racing about two years ago. After competing in a number of 10-k races, she entered the women's wheelchair division of the 2001 Chicago Marathon and - to her astonishment - ended up winning the event.

    That qualified her for the 2002 Boston Marathon, where she raised numerous eyebrows by finishing second to Hunkeler. In the process, she also realized that she has the perfect tools to become a successful wheelchair racer: a small lower body, big shoulders and long arms.

    Just as important, she discovered she has a high pain threshold - which, she points out, comes in handy when fatigue sets in, usually around mile 20.

    "When you're racing in a wheelchair," she explains, "you're sitting in a really cramped position and it's very hard on your back - especially in a marathon. So you've got to be able to push through the pain."

    Where does she go from here?

    The long-range plan is to teach physical education at an elementary school, says Ripp, who is majoring in kinesiology (the study of human muscular movements).

    But since she's just entering her athletic prime, she hopes to spend the next few years competing in both road racing and basketball and see where it leads her.

    This summer, Ripp will be competing for a U.S. road racing team that's sponsored by Hartford Insurance. She'll also be in Atlanta on the Fourth of July for the Peachtree women's 10-k wheelchair event, where she's the two-time defending champion.

    And, of course, next April she'll be back to defend her Boston Marathon title.

    Not bad, she admits, for a shy kid from a tiny village in Wisconsin.

    Or as her Illinois teammates like to say, "Way to go, Rupp."


    Published: 9:47 AM 5/05/03

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    http://www.madison.com/captimes/news/zaleski2/48221.php

  2. #2
    Very cool.

    Thanks Max.

  3. #3
    Christina is a great gal. I'm glad to see she won.

    I watched her play ball when she played for Minnesota. She was still in high school but she could sink three-pointers with ease.

    she'll do more great things, I'm sure.

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