June 14, 2012

Competitor Mike FielderThe 18th Annual West Virginia Challenged Sports Championships were held in Charleston May 2-5.

Athletes of all ages from West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey participated in track & field, archery, weightlifting and marksman events.

“Our mission is to not only offer sports as a therapeutic intervention, but also as a means to promote a lifetime investment in one’s health and well- being,” said Jeremiah Gagnon, program director. “We strive to achieve this by offering a program where physically challenged individuals can explore sports for the first time or continue pursuing sports of interest to their greatest potential despite their limitations. Just because someone is physically challenged because of an accident or injury doesn’t mean they’ve lost their competitive instincts.”

CAMC’s Medical Rehabilitation Center sponsors Challenged Sports, which is the state’s only sanctioned sports program for individuals with physical disabilities. This year’s youngest athlete, 5, participated in track and field events; and the oldest athlete, 75, participated in the marksman competition.

Mike Fielder from Clendenin, W.Va., has participated in the program for about 10 years. He was introduced to challenged sports after suffering a head injury in a car accident and receiving care at CAMC’s Medical Rehabilitation Center.

“I can’t do things the same way I did before, but there’s still a lot that I can do,” Fielder said. “In challenged sports, you work on the things you can do and just keep pushing to get better.”

Gagnon says he has seen how participating in sports positively impacts participants’ lives. “When people are succeeding in one thing it just carries over to other parts of their life,” Gagnon said. “It gives them a reason to keep themselves physically fit and stronger, and to interact with others who have the same type of injuries or handicapping conditions. Sometimes just that is very rewarding and therapeutic.”

Numerous state records were broken in this year’s championships, and several athletes qualified to move on to national competitions.

The CAMC Challenged Sports program is sanctioned by Wheelchair & Ambulatory Sports USA and the U.S. Paralympics. For more information, visit camc.org/challengedsports or call Jeremiah Gagnon at (304) 388-7608.

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