May 8, 1995 in Nation/World

Big Wheels Bloomsday ‘95 Sports A Record Number Of Wheelchair Racers - 62 In All

Gita Sitaramiah Staff writer
 

How do wheelchair racers prepare for cruising downhill at speeds up to 40 mph?

Relax.

“Once they head out the door, they get very focused on racing,” said Tom Cameron, who coordinated Bloomsday’s wheelchair divisions.

The largest field of wheelchair racers - 62 - took to the Bloomsday course Sunday morning.

Before the race, they had gathered in the Sheraton-Spokane Hotel, chatting and checking their equipment.

The racers spilled into the lobby from the hotel’s nightclub, transformed into Bloomsday’s wheelchair inspection station from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Melody Williamson, 35, from Los Angeles, worried that a strap holding her foot would break during the race. “I don’t want that to happen to me today,” she said.

Eight-time winner Craig Blanchette, of Cheney, prepared for the day with breakfast: an egg, five pieces of toast covered with jam - and some water.

The youngest female racer, 12-year-old LeAnn Shannon of Orange Park, Fla., waited with her mom and dad at her side.

“This is nothing for LeAnn,” said her mother, Lee Shannon, who held a sport drink for her daughter.

LeAnn Shannon, a seven-year veteran of more than 120 races, said she’d practiced the rough spots on the Bloomsday course Saturday and was ready.

“I get myself psyched up and think, ‘I’m going to drive my fastest,”’ she said.

The hills don’t frighten her. She knows she can brake if her chair were to go too fast.

Her mom seemed more nervous.

As the racers left the hotel, Lee Shannon offered her daughter warmer clothing, yelled for her to slow down as she raced ahead and panicked when LeAnn disappeared into the crowd.

Her parents found LeAnn, then helped her into a lightweight three-wheeled race chair near the starting line.

Her mom felt the tires and got worried.

“You don’t want a re-pump?” she asked.

The girl just rolled her eyes, then wheeled away as her mom warned her not to get too worn out during the warm-up.

LeAnn and other racers did some stretches, then wheeled back and forth down Riverside for several minutes before the start of the race.

Just before the whistle, her mom called out: “LeAnn, you should probably get down there!”

Her daughter turned and glanced at her mom, who again shouted: “You should get to your spot!”

LeAnn took her position, then whizzed past her parents with the start.

She finished third among the women.


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