Athletes Without Limits Michael Murray made Team USA and history by being the first US athlete with an intellectual disability to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympics.
Murray was recently the first athlete with an intellectual disability selected to live and train at a US Olympic Training Center with the ultimate goal of representing Team USA at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Watch a news feature on Michael Murray’s preparation for the London Paralympics.
Murray is the first U.S. athlete with intellectual disability to qualify for Paralympic Games
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Julie Holman 202-544-0510 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. – Athletes Without Limits, a nonprofit supporting athletes with intellectual disability and Olympic dreams, announced that history has been made as Michael Murray, 21, has qualified for the U.S. Paralympic Track Team headed to the London Games this summer. Murray, who hails from Nashville, TN, is the first and only athlete with intellectual disability currently represented on Team USA. (See 2012 U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team named for London for an official roster.)
Murray was selected for the games after competing in the 1500 meter run at the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Trials recently held in Indianapolis, IN. While currently ranked first in the world in the T20 class (intellectual disability) in the 800m with a time of 1:56.1, that event is not offered to T20 athletes at the 2012 Games, so Michael has set his sights and training on the 1500m contest. With his current fifth place world ranking in the 1500, a podium finish in London is well within reach.
Murray, who has been running since age 9, has been racing with the Nashville Illusions Track Club coached by Andrew Reynolds since 2000, and is competitive against non-disabled athletes in regional and national USA Track & Field meets. He began running in Paralympic competition in 2010 and has been breaking ground for athletes with intellectual disability ever since.
“We could not be more proud of Michael’s accomplishments,” said Barry Holman, President and co-founder of Athletes Without Limits. “With the decision to re-include classes for intellectual disability in Athletics, Swimming and Table Tennis coming halfway into the four-year Paralympic cycle, it was challenging to find athletes who could qualify in time for London. Then we met Michael and his supporters — his mother, family, coaches, teachers and fans — and knew he was already a contender.”
Michael’s extraordinary talent and work ethic have taken him around the world over the past two years. As a member of numerous national teams, he has travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Mexico to compete against the top runners in the world. He looks forward to adding Great Britain to that list.
Fans can watch extensive coverage of Paralympic events from August 29 – September 9 at paralympictsport.tv
Read more about Michael and other athletes with intellectual disability who are successfully integrating and accelerating into mainstream sport at www.athleteswithoutlimits.org.
Athletes Without Limits, the US member of INAS, is a nonprofit whose mission is to identify, develop and support athletes with intellectual disability and dreams of participating in high-level competition in the US and abroad.
INAS, the International Federation for sport for athletes with an intellectual disability within the Paralympic movement, manages the eligibility process for intellectual disability sport, hosts an extensive program of world and regional championship competitions, and promotes inclusion in sport around the world through it’s member countries.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is an international nonprofit organization comprised of four disability sports federations and 167 National Paralympic Committees—including U.S. Paralympics—committed to enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing sport opportunities for all persons with a disability from the beginner to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality.
First athlete with intellectual disability to make Team USA
July 1, 2012 — This morning Athletes Without Limits Michael Murray competed in the Men’s T20 1500m Paralympic Trials in Indianapolis, IN. His time and achievements earned him the historic opportunity to be the first athlete with an intellectual disability to compete for Team USA at the upcoming London Games in September.
Michael lives in Tennessee, where he has trained with the Nashville Illusions USATF Track Club. Since the twelve-year international suspension of athletes with intellectual disability in Paralympic competition was lifted for Track & Field, Swimming and Table Tennis in 2010, he has traveled to Paralympic and INAS/IPC competitions in Florida, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico and Indiana to train and race his way into a coveted spot on the US Paralympic Track and Field Team.
Click here to read the full press release.
Runner Michael Murray, swimmers Leslie Cichocki and Sarah Gilbert and runners/rowers Bruce & Mark Worley round out a strong performance for the US Team.
Washington, DC – Six elite athletes with intellectual disability represented the United States at the INAS Global Games World Championships in Italy from September 24 – October 3. Nearly 700 athletes from 40 countries competed in swimming, athletics, tennis, basketball, indoor soccer, cycling, and table tennis. The Global Games are a major preparatory competition for the London 2012 Paralympic Games where for the first time since 2000 people with intellectual disability will be compete in swimming, table tennis, and athletics.
Leading the US Team was cyclist Syd Lea from Taneytown, MD. Lea, who had twice prior placed second in the world championships, won gold in both individual events contested at the Global Games. In the road race Lea and Australian Nathan Broeran broke away early but were caught by the group at the halfway point. With four laps remaining Lea made a bold solo effort and the pack was not strong enough to catch him. He won the race by almost 25 seconds. Andre Penedo of Portugal won silver and Broeren the bronze. “It was a really good race and a tough course,” said Lea after the race, “We went out hard and then they caught us but I knew I could go again and no one could stay with me on the hills.”
In the individual time trial Lea dominated the race with a winning margin of more than 50 seconds. Dalibor Havelka of the Czech Republic and Andre Penedo were finished second and third respectively.
The golds are historic for the United States. They are the first ever won at a Global Games World Championships. Lea’s coach, Michael Lyach, said, “Syd’s victories are an example of how years of dedication, training, and racing in open competition at home can propel US athletes to the top of their sports internationally. He races all disciplines including cyclocross and mountain bikes against the non-disabled. Syd is a gifted athlete who has received tremendous support from his family and the US cycling community.”
While the US didn’t garner any other medals, it continued the theme of firsts by athletes earning places in the finals of swimming and track and field. Michael Murray, just 20 years old from Nashville, TN competed in the 1500, 800, and 400 meter runs, making the finals of the 800 and 400. Murray finished 5th in the 400 and 4th in a photo finish between 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places in the 800. In both events he record personal best times. Murray will again represent his country as a member of the US Paralympic team competing at the ParaPan Games November, 14-18 in Guadalaraja, Mexico.
Swimmer Leslie Cichocki also had an excellent first international meet competing in 10 different events over four days setting six new personal bests, posting six top 10 times, qualifying for three finals, and setting a new American record in the 50 backstroke (39.44). Cichocki plans to use her success at Global Games as a springboard to qualifying for London 2012 at upcoming Paralympic meets and the US Trials in April. Cichocki is also a talented writer and has been chosen by INAS as one of four bloggers documenting her attempt to make the Paralympic Games (www.Inas.org).
Three US athletes competed in two events. Sarah Gilbert swam four races, setting personal bests in the 200 and 400 freestyle. Most impressively, Gilbert, who also rows with the Jacksonville, FL rowing club, placed 5th in the 1000 meter indoor rowing competition and 7th in the 500 meters. With rowing slated for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brasil, Gilbert will be a strong contender to win a seat in the US Mixed 4 with Cox boat.
Twins Bruce Worley and Mark Worley of Columbia, MD competed in the 10,000 meter run and in the 500 meter indoor rowing race. In the 10,000 the brothers took an early lead in the race before Ukrainian Andriy Goliney ran away from the field and posted a winning time of 33:16. In the 500 meter rowing the brother performed very well with Bruce just ten seconds off the winner and Mark 15 seconds back. Both compete in open on water rowing competitions as members of the Athletes Without Limits/DC Strokes/US Paralympic Military team.
The US team was organized under the auspices of Athletes Without Limits, a non-profit dedicated to helping athletes with intellectual disability integrate and accelerate in sport and life, and the US member of INAS. The team, lead by Head of Delegation Julie Holman who said, “We are very proud of the US athletes. For most it was their first international competition and all raced to their potential. We are particularly happy to be bringing home two gold medals, a number of finals, and many personal best performances.”
The US Team coaches included Andrew Reynolds, Track and Field; Barry Holman, Swimming; Michael Lyach, Cycling; and Julie Holman, Indoor Rowing. Athletes Without Limits partnered with Champion System for all US Team technical team wear except for the swim racing suits. The team is currently seeking a sponsor to provide FINA approved swimsuits. For more information contact email@example.com.
Athletes Without Limits swimmer Leslie Cichocki takes 6th in women’s 200 Backstroke; the highest world ranking by a US Paralympic S14 swimmer
September 29, Loano, Italy — The competition for the team of U.S. athletes at the 2011 INAS/IPC Global Games in Liguria Italy began today when swimmers Leslie Cichocki and Sarah Gilbert took to the water at Palasporte, the 50m outdoor competition pool in Loano, Italy.
Cichocki swam an aggressive morning program including the 50 freestyle where she set a personal best of 33.16 and placed 12th out of 26; the 200 IM; the 200 back where she advanced to the finals and set another personal best with a time of 3:07.13; and the 200 freestyle. Her advance to the finals was the first for a U.S. swimmer at the INAS Global Games World Championships.
Gilbert swam a personal best in the 200m Freestyle, finishing 2nd in in heat 1, while Cichocki lead out and won heat 2. The 200 Freestyle is one of only three swimming events that will have a new class for athletes with intellectual disability (S14) at the 2012 London Paralympics. While neither made the finals, each swimmer has a number of events over the remaining three days of the competition.
Friday the rest of the US Team begin their programs. Track athletes Mark Worley and Bruce Worley race the 10,000 meters while teammate Michael Murray has heats in the 1500 and 400 meter runs. Murray, who competed as the first intellectually disabled member of a U.S. Paralympic World Championship team earlier this year in New Zealand is looking to break the 4 minute mark in the 1500.
In cycling, Syd Lea is focused on winning golds in Friday’s road race and Saturday’s individual time trials. Lea is currently the second ranked cyclist with intellectual disability in the world.
Head of the U.S. Delegation Julie Holman reports that, “The U.S. athletes are well prepared and excited to represent the their country at this prestigious event. The quality of the competition continues to improve in advance of the 2012 Paralympics, which, for the first time since Sidney 2000, will host athletes with intellectual disability starting with track and field, swimming and table tennis.”
September 1, 2011 – Athletes Without Limits, a nonprofit dedicated to helping athletes with intellectual disability integrate and accelerate in sport, is proud to announce a strong US National team for the 2011 INAS Global Games. The Games are the world championship for athletes with intellectual disability and a key qualifier in Swimming, Track & Field for London 2012 Paralympic Games. Athletes Without Limits will be leading a team of six athletes to Liguria, Italy, for the prestigious international event that takes place every 4 years in the year before the Paralympics.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decision to reinclude athletes with intellectual disability in Paralympic competition opens new doors for elite athletes in world-class competition and makes this year’s Global Games a truly historic event. The world championships will include at least 1500 athletes from 50 countries competing in sports ranging from cycling to swimming to rowing.
Like the Olympics, each Global Games sport is officiated by and run according to the rules of the sport’s international governing body, including drug testing. Medals will be awarded to the top 3 overall finishers in each event, as there are no special divisions.
“We are thrilled to be leading such a talented team of athletes to represent our country at the World Championships for athletes with intellectual disability,” said Barry Holman (Washington, DC) head coach of the US Team and co-founder of Athletes Without Limits. “At Athletes Without Limits, we are committed to helping US athletes integrate and accelerate in sport, achieving the highest possible level of competition. We understand what sports mean to our athletes, and work day in and day out to help them achieve their highest goals and support them in their efforts to represent the United States in the Paralympic Games.”
The following are the US team members qualified for Global Games:
- Syd Lea (Taneytown, MD) – Cycling. Lea is a competitive Cat 4/5 cyclist in non-disabled road, track, and cyclocross events and is the first and only US medalist at a Global Games. He is also a member of the Athletes Without Limits Rowing Team and has competed successfully in Cross Country. He returns to the 2011 Global Games with hopes of becoming the first US World Champion in the 4-day stage race through Liguria, Italy. A graduate of Francis Scott Key High School, Lea is currently employed as a groundskeeper at Mount St. Mary’s University and often rides his bike 30+ miles to and from work as part of his training. Lea comes from a family of elite athletes including his bother, Bobby Lea, a professional cyclist who was a member of the 2008 Olympic Track Cycling Team.
- Michael Murray (Nashville, TN) – Track and Field. Murray runs the 1500m in 4:10 and is the first athlete with intellectual disability to make the US Paralympic Team in over a decade. He does most of his training with the Nashville Illusions Track Club, where he competes regularly against non-disabled runners. When asked for an inspirational quote for his 2011 Paralympic Track & Field profile he offered “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
- Leslie Cichocki (Palos Hills, IL) – Swimming. Cichocki, 22, received her Paralympic eligibility on May 20 and began setting INAS Americas Regional records the very next day at the GTAC Paralympic meet in Ohio. At that meet, she met the international qualification standards for 10 swimming events, including the very challenging 200 butterfly. A swimmer since age 4, Cichocki is also involved in an independent living curriculum at Morain County Community College, and enjoys extracurricular activities including bowling, cross country skiing, coaching and volunteering to help athletes with special needs.
- Sara Gilbert (Jacksonville, FL) – Swimming, Rowing. Gilbert is a multi-sport athlete (swimming and rowing) who began swimming at the age of 7 and hasn’t looked back. She trains with and competes against nondisabled swimmers as part of the North Florida Swim Club and qualified in 4 events for the 2011 Global Games Team. NOTE: At the Global Games, 150 swimmers will compete in a total of 42 events; the US swimmers will compete in 12 races each over four days. In order to enter, they had to meet high qualification standards. For example, the minimum qualifying time for the women’s long course 50m Freestyle is 39 seconds, while the current INAS record in that event is an impressive 29 seconds.
- Bruce Worley (Columbia, MD) – 10,00m run, Rowing. Bruce will compete in the 10,000m distance run at the Athletics World Championships. Bruce is also a member of the Athletes Without Limits/DC Strokes Rowing Team in Washington DC, and will compete at the indoor rowing championships also being held at the Global Games.
- Mark Worley (Columbia, MD) – 10,000m run, Rowing. Mark will compete in the 10,000m distance run at the Athletics World Championships. Bruce is also a member of the Athletes Without Limits/DC Strokes Rowing Team in Washington DC, and will compete at the indoor rowing championships also being held at the Global Games.
The US delegation will be led by Athletes Without Limits co-founders, Head Coach & Swim Coach Barry Holman and Team Manager & Rowing Coach Julie Holman, along with Athletics Coach Andrew Reynolds. Several parents and relatives also plan to travel with the team in support of the athletes.
“Our delegation has doubled since the 2009 Games, but we still have a lot of work to do to grow the US program.” said Julie Holman, Team Manager and Athletes Without Limits co-founder. “Being at the Global Games in 2009, watching the professional level at which the top athletes in the world train and compete has been such an inspiration. Athletes with intellectual disability are capable of competing at the highest levels of sport — even by nondisabled standards — and Athletes Without Limits is determined to see more US athletes competing in mainstream sport, World Championships, the Global Games, and the Paralympics.”
The athletes will compete in US Team technical wear sponsored by Champion System, a custom apparel provider whose innovative process helps teams of all sizes throughout the world look like professionals in cycling, running, triathlon, rowing and other sports. The US Team is still seeking a swimwear partner to provide FINA-approved race suits for the two US swimmers.
The results of all the competitions including video, photos, and medal counts will be posted throughout the week at http://www.globalgames2011.it/
Private sponsorships from friends and local businesses keep Michaels Paralympic Dream alive as the he heads to the 2011 INAS/IPC Global Games in Imperia, Italy.
Friends and family members of Michael Murray, the highest ranked track athlete with intellectual disability in the US, spearheaded a local fundraising campaign to help offset Michael’s out-of-pocket expenses for the 2011 Global Games in Italy. The Global Games is an important qualifier for the London 2012 Paralympics and Michael represents the best chance for a US runner to qualify in the T20 class.
Athletes Without Limits would like to thank Nashville Illusions USA Track & Field Club and all those who contributed at the local benefits for supporting Michael’s Paralympic dream.
Congratulations to Michael Murray — the first American athlete with an intellectual disability to make the US Paralympic Team in over a decade — for his PR of 4:18 in the men’s 1500m World Championship last month on Christchurch.
Michael is currently ranked 13th in the world in the men’s 1500m. He was 6th in his heat and missed out on the finals by one place. Here’s what we saw on ParalympicTV: Through 3 laps Michael was comfortably with the leaders. With 300 to go he made a strong surge and moved up on the outside. Looks as though that cost him and he faded a bit (a la Prefontaine?) and got passed by a few guys down the home stretch. Nothing ventured, nothing gained though, right?!
This excerpt from Notable Performances of the US Paralympic update shows real progress in athletes with intellectual disability being accepted at the highest level of sport:
“Michael Murray has provided the team with motivation and joy. It is a pleasure and honor to work with such a great young man. Michael (T20) may not have advanced but he ran a smart race and improved by over 3 seconds from his best 1500 time.”
Watch the Men\’s T20 Final: Can any of our almost 2000 Facebook supporters run a sub 4:00 1500? Tell us your best time. If you don’t know, hit the track to find out how you stack up.
Watch the Women’s T20 Final: An amazing performance by the silver medalist from Poland who loses her shoe in the first 100 meters, falls to last place and then roars back. Phenomenal perseverance.
Michael represents the first U.S. athlete with intellectual disability to compete at a Paralympic World Championship in over a decade with hopes of making Team USA for the London 2012 Games.
Washington, D.C. – Athletes Without Limits, a nonprofit supporting athletes with intellectual disability and Olympic dreams, announced that history is in the making, as U.S. runner, Michael Murray, 19, prepares to compete for Team USA at the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, January 22-30, 2011.
Murray, who hails from Nashville, TN, is is the first and only athlete with intellectual disability currently represented on the U.S. Paralympic team, and is one of 18 men and 8 women in the world to qualify for the newly opened 1500m T20 classification. The event marks the first time in over a decade that athletes with intellectual disability will compete in a Paralympic World Championship.
In a warm-up meet earlier this month at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia, Murray ran a blistering 2:03 800-meters to win a mixed-division race, putting him solidly in position as a T20 contender at the World Championships, and a hopeful for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“We are proud to stand behind Michael Murray as he paves the way for athletes with intellectual disability in the U.S.,” said Barry Holman, President and co-founder of Athletes Without Limits. “Michael’s story is truly inspirational, as Michael has already accomplished what most non-disabled individuals couldn’t even dream of. With the ongoing support of his family, his teammates and coach, and the U.S. Paralympic Committee, Michael is truly making his dreams become a reality and proving that with tenacity and a lot of hard work, amazing things can happen.”
In order to be on Team USA, an athlete had to qualify at the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Nationals in June 2010. With the vote to re-include athletes with intellectual disability in Paralympic events taking place in November 2009, there was very little time for countries, and athletes, to understand rules and qualification procedures, and prepare for competition. Athletes Without Limits worked closely with athletes, their families, psychologists, and U.S. Paralympics staff to help get athletes through the process more easily and allow them to focus instead on training. Three athletes with intellectual disability participated at Nationals, and only one qualified – Michael Murray with an impressive 4:21 in the 1500m race.
Murray, who has been running since age 9, has been racing with the Nashville Illusions Track Club coached by Andrew Reynolds since 2000, and is competitive against non-disabled athletes in regional and national USA Track & Field meets. Michael has overcome extraordinary challenges but finds running allows him to focus on what’s ahead and live his personal mantra: “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.”
Read more about Michael, including links to his bios, race highlights and event information at www.athleteswithoutlimits.org. ParalympicSport.TV will cover the IPC Athletics T20 1500m heat live January 26 at 6:20pm EST.
Notes to Press:
Athletes Without Limits, the US member of INAS, is a nonprofit whose mission is to identify, develop and support athletes with intellectual disability and dreams of participating in high-level competition—including non-disabled, mainstream sporting events—in the US and abroad.
The International Federation for Sport for Athletes with an Intellectual Disability (INAS), is a founding member and one of four disability-specific sports federations that make up the (IPC), the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is an international non-profit organization comprised of four disability sports federations and 167 National Paralympic Committees—including U.S. Paralympics — committed to enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing sport opportunities for all persons with a disability from the beginner to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality.
For more information contact Jennifer Tetrick or Julie Holman at 202-544-0510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the first time in over a decade Paralympic opportunities are opening up for athletes with intellectual disability, starting with the men’s 1500m for T20 (athletes with intellectual disability) at the upcoming 2010 US Paralympic Track & Field Nationals June 15-20, 2010 in Mirimar Florida.
Athletes Without Limits co-founder Barry Holman, worked together with US Paralympic to incorporate the class at this years nationals realizing the importance of the event for any athlete interested in getting into the US Team pipeline for the 2012 Paralympics.
Athletes Without Limits co-founder Julie Holman facilitated classification and entry into the competition for three athletes, Michael Murray, Steven Cuomo and Marcus Saunders. The athletes had to demonstrate they met not only the eligibility criteria for intellectual disability, but also the qualification time standards set by US Paralympics.
In addition to Athletes Without Limits volunteers, several members of the athletes’ communities were instrumental in seeing the athletes made to the event including the school psychologist and a local meet promoter in Murray’s hometown of Nashville, and psychologists and Disability Sport advocate Steve Cuomo with US Track and Field and Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program in Long Island, New York.
The event is a qualifier for the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand, an essential meet for making the 2012 US Paralympic Track & Field Team. It would be for the first time in over 12 years, if an athlete with intellectual disability were to make the 2012 US Paralympic Team.