Reasons & Remarks: Glimpses of the Games

Reprinted from PN September 2001
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The Big Apple shone brightly during July Fourth week, as close to a thousand veterans in wheelchairs and their supporters invaded New York City's fabulous Times Square. The 225th birthday of our great country fell on "hump day" this year, so folks observed it on both weekends—and there is no more exciting place to celebrate than New York's streets.

The Marriott Marquis Hotel, overlooking all the glitter and glamour of Times Square, served as headquarters for the 21st National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG). Usually, it takes two or three large hotels to accommodate 600+ wheelin' competitors, their coaches, and supporters as well as the organizers, sponsors, officials, and staff from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Host Chapter Eastern PVA, and of course the officials with whistles, heat sheets, and clipboards at the ready. But not in Mayor Rudy's town. The Marriott Marquis housed the whole entourage with room to spare for a half dozen other conferences and gobs of tourists.

Opening and closing ceremonies took place inside the huge hotel. And it provided venues for slalom, quad rugby, air guns, weightlifting, and table tennis.

When the 21st NVWG was in the planning stages, organizers thought transportation between venues was going to be a major concern in the infamous NYC traffic. But it definitely was not. Between the fleet of brand-spanking-new wheelchair-accessible MAT New York City Transit buses and the flashy Eastern PVA fleet of ramped vans and buses, the transportation worries were for naught.

That wily ol' slalom schemer, Jim Hayes, did it again. I think the tricky Texan lies awake nights thinking up more tantalizing challenges for his super-popular Super G course. The "by invitation only" event is gaining such renown that the crowd gathers a full hour before the first daring victimI mean contenderpushes off.

This year's winner going away was EPVA's Laura Schwanger, a seasoned slalom racer who came within an ant's whisker of winning the event last year. She was the only woman to run the gauntlet, and she made those four wheels scream. At the closing banquet, Schwanger received the prestigious Spirit of the Games Award, which recognizes the athlete who most epitomizes the qualities of a championathletic excellence, sportsmanship, and character. Shootshe should have won the award just for surviving the Super G!

And, to wrap it all up, The Big Apple was supposed to be way too big for the Games. But as it turned out, the big city was just right. The torch was passed to the Cleveland VAMC and Buckeye PVA.

Cleveland is the home of the renowned Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, so The King may show up to dazzle the troops instead of Bo Derek, who was this year's celebrity guest. Rumor has it Elvis is in the house!


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Reasons & Remarks: Glimpses of the Games


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