Veterans wheelchair games inspire trio of Alle-Kiski Valley residents
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be in Louisville, Ky., next summer, and Alle-Kiski Valley residents Brendan Beck, Jerry Baylor and Mark Rosensteel said they are looking forward to being at the 39 th annual event.
They also still are basking in their success at the most recent games last month in Orlando.
Each brought home several medals from the games that featured competitors from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.
“There were so many inspiring people there, and a lot of people to share experiences with,” said Beck, a 44-year-old Leechburg resident who competed at the games for the first time.
Beck, a former enlisted member of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, became paralyzed from the waist down in an accident three years ago. He wanted to find a way to still be active, and he found local and national wheelchair competitions with the help of Baylor, an Allegheny Township resident and a three-decades participant of the national games.
Beck fared well at the Buckeye Wheelchair Games in Ohio last year and made it a point to compete in Orlando.
He came home from Orlando with gold medals in powerlifting and the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter wheelchair races and a bronze in the javelin.
“There was just awesome competition,” Beck said. “It gave me a lot more energy and motivation to come back and do better next year.”
Beck also competed in the shot put and nine-ball pool.
Each wheelchair athlete was placed in a competition group based on their age and paralysis level.
As a first-year competitor, Beck was in the novice division.
“Just being able to compete at any level is a great feeling,” Beck said.
Baylor, 71, who also competed at the first national wheelchair games in 1981, won seven gold, two silver and two bronze medals in the Senior Division (ages 60 and older) in Orlando.
He won gold in the 100, 200, 400 and 800 wheelchair races; the 800 biathlon; the shot put; and the discus. Silver medals came in weightlifting and javelin with bronze in quad rugby and team relay.
“These games are the world’s largest of their type,” Baylor said. “It’s always great to get back and see all your old friends. You always make new ones while you are there. There were more than 1,500 people at our closing ceremonies banquet.”
Rosensteel, 58, an Air Force veteran, competed in his first national games when the competition came to Pittsburgh in 2011.
The Apollo resident has returned each year and fared well in Orlando.
“I did the 5K handcycle race, and that was grueling,” Rosensteel said. “My handcycle was stuck in seventh gear. Being unable to shift made it a little more tasking.”
Rosensteel, paralyzed in a swimming pool diving accident 35 years ago, captured silver medals in bowling/ramp (manual) and motorized rally in the Masters Division.
He uses a power wheelchair operated with a joystick. He has no use of his hands, but he moves the joystick with the limited use of his arms.
“We’re really excited about next year’s games,” Rosensteel said.
Beck, Rosensteel and Baylor represented the Keystone chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.