Fast and furious best describes the brand new Special Olympics Brunswick County cycling team. Literally, the team of four cyclists was put together in a little over a month and then the group pedaled with a purpose during the 2013 Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament in High Point and earned two gold medals, one silver medal and three bronze medals!
“Oh, we move fast,” laughed Coach Wes Juda. “At our first practice, most of the team couldn’t make around our half k course. We had to begin with the basics like how to use your handbrake. And to then see them all compete in the 5k and have two race in the 10k and have everyone win medals is just amazing! They’ve improved so much!”
Wes and Diane Juda moved from Maryland to Brunswick County in May with their daughter, Katie. They expressed a desire to start a cycling program and local coordinator Steve Goodwin pledged his support. Over the summer athletes were recruited and in late September, Katie, Rachel Teeples, Nathan Verzinskie and John Midgett came to the first practice. A week later, Wes Juda attended a training to become a certified cycling coach and the following week the entire team attended a Special Olympics NC Qualifier. After three more practices the team was in High Point for the state-level tournament.
“Katie could ride forever and is a fierce competitor,” said Coach Juda of his daughter. “Nathan told me he came out because he wants to win as many medals as possible so we’re going to try to make that happen for him. John has become a great rider and improved so much.”
“I just decided to try it,” said Teeples. “I like to get a song in my head while I ride like Katy Perry’s ‘ROAR’. I feel free and it’s fun.”
The weekend was memorable for more than just the medals. A couple weeks prior to the Tournament, 50 year-old John brought his personal bike to Coach Juda to get repaired. The bike was 75% rusted, duct taped together, had flat tires, no grips on the handle bars, a crooked seat and only one pedal. It was John’s primary means of transportation, but beyond repair. Coach Juda contacted Special Olympics Guilford/High Point coaches Toby Gordon and Mike Beeson, who are members of Carolina Flyers Inc. The Carolina Flyers is a non-profit organization that provides cycling equipment and program opportunities for disabled riders. Gordon and Beeson were able to present John with a brand new Trek Pure cruiser before his team headed back to Brunswick County. It took John a while to understand the bike was his to keep but he was very happy and ready to adorn it with a basket on the front.
“We are so grateful for John’s new bike,” said Juda. “This will impact his whole life. This has been a whirlwind experience. We’ve had a great time at the state games. We hope to do so much more next year. I’m so happy this team has had a great first cycling experience. I can’t wait to see what we’re like when we return next year. “
Most cycling teams hit the brakes after the SONC Fall Tournament but its clear the Brunswick County cycling team will continue their fast and furious pace!