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A week after the Michigan games, Beth, John, and I met the Toledo Raptors in Columbus for the Ohio Wheelchair Games, a much larger event. Our team stayed two nights in a hotel close to the OSU campus. In the lobby, one of the teenage boys showed off with extreme wheelies. When his manual chair tipped backwards to the floor, the front desk staff rushed over while Beth and her friends laughed to tears. (When his chair toppled back, the boy tipped his head safely forward, chin to chest.) Karaoke in the hotel lounge turned a bit wild.
Returning to the Jesse Owens stadium as a participant, Beth sat with her friends near the track while they waited for their turns. I watched the races from the stands with other family members. She also tried outdoor field events and threw a discus for the first time. She laughed when it plopped near her wheelchair.
For the weightlifting competition in a gym, I helped Beth recline face up on a narrow elevated bench with a barbell suspended over her chest. For quads, the officials started with no weight added to the barbell. Beth’s arms were not strong enough to budge it from the rack. At all. Despite nearly two years of intense physical therapy and pushing herself in a manual wheelchair.
It was a reality check, a reminder of the severity of her disability.
Beth quickly moved on to her favorite sport with her slow backstroke. Ben joined us to watch the meet at an OSU pool. Swimmers with a wide range of abilities and ages gathered for their races, with most of them not aiming for a specific time. With no announcer, there was no easy way of evaluating the races, but it didn’t matter. Encouragement reigned.
Before the table tennis competition, Beth practiced at an open table with me for the first time since her spinal cord injury. She held the paddle with the tenodesis grip, using her wrist to move her left hand up, perpendicular to her forearm. Other quads strapped the paddle to their hand. She depended on the armrests of her wheelchair as she reached from side to side. Her balance as she sat in her wheelchair was not solid; if she leaned over to pick something up off the floor, she would fall down—unless she first hooked the opposite elbow on a push handle. During the competition, she dropped the paddle twice, and picked it up herself. Some watched closely, perhaps to try the same thing later on their own.
Another Raptors mom enthusiastically congratulated Beth for winning several ping-pong games. All three of my kids learned ping-pong from my mom, the first woman in Lorain County, Ohio to teach physical education back in the early 1950’s. My mom also played field hockey and basketball at OSU where she met my dad.
My dad liked to point out Beth’s double dimples and blue eyes, both of which she shared with him—along with a stubborn streak.
A banquet in a large ballroom ended the Ohio Wheelchair Games. I joined in the applause when Beth was surprised with the Rookie of the Year award.
Our Seattle trip was approaching fast.
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