Posts tagged ‘Ability Athletics’

Emily Frederick Forged Her Own Path to Rio

Photo via Cardoni

If it wasn’t for an error on a GPS, it’s possible that Emily Frederick wouldn’t have found herself in Rio for the Paralympics last fall.

No, so she didn’t drive all the way down to Brazil on accident or anything like that. Frederick, an Alabama native who was born with dwarfism and stands 4-foot-1, needs special pedals to drive. When she was in high school and eager to get her license, her mother drove alone to a facility in Birmingham, Ala., called Lakeshore.

There are two Lakeshores in Birmingham. The one they needed was a rehabilitation center that had those pedal extensions; the other was a training facility for athletes with disabilities. They’re right next door to one another. The GPS brought Frederick’s mom—an assistant high school track coach—to the training facility. She got a tour and realized it was the perfect place for her daughter, who grew up playing sports but had stopped because she struggled to keep up with her teammates.

Initially, Emily wasn’t on board with her mother’s idea. (more…)

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April 26, 2017 at 9:25 am 1 comment

Max Rohn’s Invictus Games Aspirations

Max Rohn is going for gold in shot put and discus this week at the Invictus Games. Created by Prince Henry of Wales in 2014, the Invictus Games are for individuals who were wounded while serving in their native country’s armed services.

Rohn competed in the first Games in 2014 and took home two golds (discus, shot put) and a silver (sitting volleyball). He was a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy serving in Iraq who received a Purple Heart after his Humvee was hit by a grenade in 2009; after a series of procedures, he lost his right leg.

Currently, Rohn is a student at Penn State and spends 20 hours a week training with the Ability Athletics program. Once he’s done with the Invictus Games, Rohn plans on trying out for the United States’ Paralympic team.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

May 9, 2016 at 11:50 am 2 comments

The Positive Outlook of Brett Gravatt

FOX 29 Philly debuted a story last night on Brett Gravatt, the Penn State soccer player turned wheelchair racer who we profiled in our current issue.

The story highlights Gravatt’s life ever since the snowboarding accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down in 2014. He mentions that he sometimes gets “unwanted attention” from students around campus who see him using a wheelchair, but says that he has embraced the path that he’s gone down and that he was not going to “be miserable” due to his new situation. Gravatt included a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that he lives his life by: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

The video also features interviews with Nittany Lion soccer coach Bob Warming and Teri Jordan, the head coach of Penn State’s Ability Athletics program. Both of them speak to Gravatt’s drive as a competitor and how that has helped him succeed at his new sport, as he is currently ranked 22nd in the world in wheelchair racing.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

February 11, 2016 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

Willing and Able

File_JordanWhen Penn State launched a program for disabled and physically challenged athletes at Penn State, she felt verbiage was important. “We came up with the idea to call it Ability Athletics,” says Teri Jordan, who started the program in 1999 with then-Athletic Director Tim Curley ’76. “Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. Ability Athletics is giving an opportunity for physically challenged Penn Staters to have an opportunity to participate in sport and competition and reach it to the highest level that they can possibly take themselves.”

Today the program offers opportunities in wheelchair basketball, track and field, swimming and weight lifting. Jordan also is looking to add triathlon to the mix. And, for the first time, the sports will also be featured in events sanctioned by the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

Although the program wasn’t launched at Penn State until Jordan was well into her professional career, the seed was planted back in her undergraduate days at San Jose State. As a volunteer with Special Olympics and other similar programs on campus, she often worked with disabled athletes and others with physical challenges.

She remembers teaching a young boy in a wheelchair how to swim. To this day she gets choked up recalling the day he was able to first move around in a pool without a wheelchair: “He was so excited about being able to move for the first time,” she says. “He looked up at the trophies and said, ‘Do you think I could win those?’ I tear up just thinking about it right now. I said yes, and at that point I knew that people like myself had to make those opportunities for them, and if I did that, of course yes would be the answer for him.”

Jordan displays a similar passion toward her current athletes, around 15 at the moment—a number she is always looking to increase, as more and more athletes find out about Penn State’s programs. We caught up with the coach late last fall, as she supervised a practice for Brett Gravatt, Baren Berg, a former wrestler who was injured during a deployment, and a handful of other athletes.

Penn Stater: How busy are you with the Ability Athletics program?
Teri Jordan: We are really busy. October was tremendously busy with the program with Diversity Awareness Month. Every weekend we were busy. (Also this year) the ECAC Conference is now putting in three events for disability into the conference: swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball, and we have all three programs. I have only one swimmer, but maybe Brett will be my second swimmer. … We have a lot of quality athletes and we have a lot that are just participating to be the very best they can be.

(more…)

December 23, 2015 at 11:09 am 1 comment

The Penn Stater — Jan. 13, 2014

New semester, new coach, new era: Students are back in class today for the start of the Spring 2014 semester, but they’re not the only ones settling in to a new workload. And you can bet James Franklin was up earlier than most of them. Per @PennStateFball, the Nittany Lions’ 16th head football coach followed up a very busy weekend by getting to his new office by 5 a.m. today.

Bd2hMvFCQAEgRN-If you’re just now catching up on news of Franklin’s hiring, you can read our weekend recap of his introductory press conference here. For broader perspective, a few links worth checking out:

* Franklin’s busy weekend included Saturday’s press conference and photo ops and continued Sunday with appearances at the women’s volleyball banquet, the wrestling meet, and the Lady Lion basketball game. GoPSUSports has video.

* Local fan and media reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and while a handful of national columnists reacted with skepticism and scorn, most outside the Penn State community have nothing but praise for the hire. ESPN’s Ivan Maisel has some good perspective on this one, while the network’s Big Ten reporter, Adam Rittenberg, weighs the risks and rewards of Franklin’s hire.

* Franklin’s reputation as an ace recruiter is understandably getting a lot of attention. The should be very good news for Penn State, and as a couple of writers familiar with his previous jobs point out, temporarily very bad for Vanderbilt, and indefinitely awful for Maryland.

A really B1G show: Some great Penn State stories are featured on tonight’s episode of “BTN Live BIG,” airing at 11 p.m. Eastern on the Big Ten Network. The university’s nationally respected ability athletics program is highlighted, as is the work of David Hughes, the biologist whose fascinating research into “zombie ants” we’ve featured in the magazine. If you can’t stay up for it, set your DVR.

What’s in a (domain) name? If you’ve got $4,583 burning a hole in your pocket, you can bid on the rights to PennState.com. That’s the reported starting bid for the URL, which the university recently allowed to expire. The university’s home page, of course, is psu.edu.)

Closer to take-off: We’ve told you all about Penn State’s Lunar Lion team. The latest update from the (hopefully) moon-bound team? They recently tested their rocket engines, and happily, “everything went as planned.”

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment


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