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"Amputee athletes put their best foot forward in extreme sports competitions."

The first ever O&P Extremity Games were held at the Orlando Water Sports Complex July 28th - 30th. But this isn't Murderball, the X Games or Dew Sports Tour. The sports are the same, Skateboarding, Wakeboarding, Rock Climbing and BMX racing being the staples of extreme sports, with one major difference. O&P stands for Orthotics and Prosthetics and these competitions are specifically for people with amputations or a limb difference. This is a whole new animal in extreme sports, hell it's a completely new breed.

In this first of it's kind competition, the all amateur field of athletes 13 years or older was judged by four judges, and shared a $25,000.00 purse, with $5,000.00 going to the first place finishers. The 80 or so athletes from as far away as New Zealand and right here in Windermere are here because of Eric Robinson, President of College Park Industries and his colleague Stephanie Wallace. College Park Industries manufacturer of a specialty line of prosthetic feet. College Park Industries? Have I heard of it? Where in College Park is it?

Funny thing is, College Park Industries is based out of Michigan. It's not a conspiracy though, Florida is just a great place to have these kinds of events. I got to sit with Eric on Friday and ask him some questions about how the competitions came about. Eric's father was the developer of the first prosthetic foot and Eric along with others, constructed a next generation foot. This foot may have been viewed by the prosthethes user and distributor as a middle class product but Eric thought differently.

Envisioned as "an X Games for amputees" these contests were designed as a way to fill a need in the amputee community that just didn't exist until now. The tournaments co-founder, Eric Robinson said, "There wasn't any place where amputees could compete against each other in these sports. They have a desire to compete, but they needed a venue where they were going against athletes of the same capabilities. What is considered extreme for an amputee may not be for a person with all of their limbs."

One of my favorite definitions for extreme is extending far beyond the norm. I think that accurately describes these athletes. Not only in overcoming the obstacles in their lives. Dealing with their disabilities, and extending themselves with their new shiny metal limbs, competing in sports that would seem off limits.

Friday evenings Paintball exhibition was great. There were fifteen teams. The format was a little atypical, no flags, but standard five on five, frag till your out rules applied. Orlando's own Stinger's Paintball supplied all the equipment and the mix of players, amputee and able bodied, had a great time blasting the crap out of each other. Unfortunately there wasn't a clear winner, teams left early, didn't have all their players etc, but as I said it was alot of fun.

The main events started on Saturday morning at ten thirty. John Register from the U.S. Paralympics sang the National Anthem and Rock Climbing and Skateboarding went first. Watching the climbers on the 24 foot artificial wall was awesome. There were 56 competitors overall, some with single prosthetics and some with multiple limb replacements. Top honors with an 11 second climb and $5,000 dollars going to y from z. Separating second and third was just three seconds, 16 and 19 seconds respectively. My good friend from Cassellberry, Shawn WhIttaker who is a below the knee amputee, just missed the money with a 22 second climb.

Skateboarding was also very good. A six foot mini-ramp was set up right next to the rock wall and 10 athletes had two 60 second judged attempts in the first round. The top competitors went through to the next round and the winner of the $5,000 dollars was Charles House - Merritt Island, Florida2nd Place – Rob Nelson - Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 3rd Place – Garry Moore - Birdsboro, Pennsylvania

BMX Racing was also extremely competitive. It seemed a little unfair in the fact that BMX frames and Mountain Bike frames were racing at the same time. The races were four at a time heads up. The winners in the first heat went on to the next round and so on. Anthony Zycowski, an arm amputee from Grand Rapids Michigan won the event on a mountain bike taking home the cash and bragging rights. Orlando's Brandon Spears did very well, finishing second overall, losing only by a nose and winning himself a thousand dollars. Rounding out the finishers was Christopher Morgan from Mesa, Arizona

Brandon was diagnosed with the rare but very serious Guillain-Barre syndrome at the age of three. Guillain Barre is a syndrome that affect's the central nervous system in 1 out of 100,000 people, causing weakening of the legs or arms and sometimes paralysis. He is a tanned, blonde haired, seventeen year old and well adjusted to his disability, despite wearing braces on both shins that go from just below his knees to his feet. Brandon also competed in the Wakeboarding event, which I thought was the best part of all the days events.

The Wakeboarding contest would best be described as a mixed board contest because there were paraplegics using sit-ski's and Brandon who was riding a wake skate. The contest was great fun all the same, 20 athletes competed in two passes with the best overall score winning. Sixteen year old Logan Aldridge who is a above the elbow amputee was throwing tantrums eight feet out of the water. Not that kind of tantrum though, the trick called tantrum where you flip upside down crossing from one wake to the other and land, hopefully on one's feet. Ironically, Logan lost his arm in a boating accident when he was thirteen.

All of the athletes in that contest were going really big, way beyond what you would expect. Quite a few famous amputees were competing. Amy Purdy who along with being a double leg amputee is a professional snowboarder, model, actress and non-profit founder. Brandon did well in the contest, landing a few great tricks, but falls took him out of contention. After all was said and done, the water settled and the top three were Sean Reyngoudt – Summerland, Florida. 2nd Place – Logan Aldridge – Raleigh, North Carolina. 3rd Place – Billy Tonis – Dublin, California
Everything about this weekend was amazing. The events themselves were free of charge. All of the facilities were accessible to disabled and able bodied, competitor and spectator alike, and was planned with every thought in mind. I had a great time and look forward to going back next year."

Ralph Raymond

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