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Disabled bobsled makes history again

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

After years and years of trying to make disabled bobsledding come to fruition, the sport has reached two major milestones in less than one week.

Just days after the two-man team of Aaron Laningham and Matt Profitt made history by becoming the first disabled sled to forerun a World Cup event, the National Ability Center (NAC) received word from the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) that the team has been invited to compete with able-bodied bobsledders in the America’s Cup competition being held at the Park City track this weekend, December 14 -16. The America’s Cup is the qualifying series for the U.S. bobsled team.

According to a press release by NAC outreach manager Jessica Kunzer, the duo has had consistently successful runs throughout the course of the World Cup, demonstrating that they are serious athletes and capable of competing on an international level. It was also noted that their times were affected by the fact that Profitt, a below-the-knee-amputee, pushes the sled solo, as Laningham, a paraplegic, is already strapped in the sled at the start. Regardless, their times were comparable to many athletes competing in the America’s Cup circuit, and the invitation was extended.

"I think everyone was impressed by their performance last week. So they had to get them in," Kunzer said.

This weekend, Profitt will compete with bobsled teammate and fellow amputee, Gary Kuhl. Laningham is still awaiting for official certification from the International Federation of Bobsleigh and Toboggan (FIBT) to compete internationally, and so he will forerun the event.

Kunzer says that until other countries begin disabled bobsledding programs, their teams will likely seek able-bodied competition. Currently, they are hoping to compete in other races in Calgary.

"I think right now, competing with able-bodied people just encourages the awareness," Kunzer said.

This will mark the first time that athletes with disabilities have competed in the America’s Cup, meaning the NAC and its athletes will once again make history.

They are also hoping that this competition will further advance awareness about adaptive bobsled programs to help make bobsled a sport in the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. At least seven other countries need to initiate bobsled programs in order for this to happen.

The two-man competition will run both days from 5-7 p.m. on the UOP track.

For more information on the America’s Cup or the National Ability Center Bobsled program, contact Lauren Artesani at 200-0981.


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