|08-08-2002, 12:03 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Champ's back on his board
Champ's back on his board
By Steven D. Barnes | Sentinel Correspondent
Posted August 8, 2002
Craig "C.C." Roberts was a world-champion wake boarder five years ago when his spinal cord was injured in an auto accident, ending his career and confining him to a wheelchair.
The accident stole his ability to walk, but it didn't kill his love for the water. After years of playing around casually with friends on a wake board with a wheelchair bolted to it, the 29-year-old Casselberry man hopes to make it back into competition this week for the first time since the accident.
He is pinning his hopes on his ability to qualify for the 2002 Disabled Water Ski National Championships scheduled today through Saturday at Cranes Roost Park in Altamonte Springs.
More than 30 athletes from throughout the country will take part in the competition, which will include slalom, trick and jumping events. All athletes are either partially or totally blind, paraplegic, quadriplegic or amputees.
The event is sponsored by USA Water Ski, recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the national governing body of competitive water skiing.
In addition to fighting for the title of national champion, competitors in the event will also be vying for the chance to join the 2003 U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team when the team competes in the 2003 Disabled World Championships at Cranes Roost next year.
Last weekend Roberts got his first taste of what skiing in the competition will be like. With the help of volunteers from U CanSki 2, a club dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in the sport, he took a few laps around the lake on a modified "sit ski," which features a seat mounted on a wide ski.
He will need to ski alone to qualify for this week's competition -- a challenge that will be a little easier thanks to the help of other volunteers who helped him rig his wake board to be legal for competition.
"It felt pretty good just being back on the water," Roberts said after coming in from his first session. "I'm definitely pumped up."
The competitors in this week's event face obstacles that other water skiers never have to think about. In some cases, the athletes must be attached to the towrope with a harness because they lack the hand strength to hold on alone. Blind competitors must rely on verbal directions from a parallel skier to help them find the beginning of jump ramps.
What really sets these athletes apart, though, is their commitment to overcoming their disabilities.
"My injuries are not going to hold me back," Roberts said. "It's not stopping me."
The disabled division of USA Waterski has about 100 members. Many of the champions from last year's competition are returning to defend their titles this year, but a number of new contestants are hoping to challenge them.
The contest will begin at 8 a.m. and run through the end of the day Saturday.
Cranes Roost Park is just west of the Altamonte Mall, off State Road 436 in Altamonte Springs. Copyright © 2002, Orlando Sentinel