One more step to the Paralympics

March 21, 2006

After two venturous weeks in Perth, Australia, Edward Maalouf is back from the Wild West Handcycling Tour 2006, where not only did he get to meet international wheelchair racers and compete with them, but also master his wheelchair racing skills in preparation for the Paralympics.

The Wild West Handcycling Tour, a 5 day stage race run by the Wheelchair Sports WA Association, was conducted this year in Perth - Australia from the 15th till the 19th of March and was preceded by a 10 day training camp. This event, the biggest of its kind in Australia, is the first race of the Handcycling Federation’s World Cup Series, which includes races in Europe, South Africa and USA.

This year’s tour was quite challenging and adventurous for participants, comprising 3 road races, a time trial, and a hill climb; in a total distance of 160km. Edward himself describes some difficulties he faced prior to the race and after it. “On our way to Perth, we came to a narrow road with a right turn and an electricity pole, so we had to turn right then suddenly to the left without any warning from the guys in the front. I found myself hitting a tree, wounding myself and bruising my rib with one of the bike handles. I arranged to have another handcycle delivered to me before the first race. However, there was a small piece missing in the brakes, so I borrowed a handcycle from a German guy who was only there to train. I finished in 5th place.”

Approximately 45 riders took part in the tour, including 22 International riders from Lebanon, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Poland, Slovak Republic, Spain, South Africa and the United States.

As the only representative athlete of Lebanon, Edward made a distinguished performance all 5 stages of the race, ranking 5th, 9th, 5th, 3d and 4th respectively. “On the fourth day,” Edward says, “the race track was a car racing circuit. The race was smooth, but I was more interested in having a good race than achieving a good position. So I helped one of the Czech guys for the finish line. He finished 2nd and I finished 3rd that day.”

This heartening experience would not have been possible for Edward if it weren’t for the contribution of “Act for Lebanon” organization. This trip has given him more momentum and motivation to achieve his goal of taking part in the Paralympics and earning recognition for Lebanese athletes in another internationally competitive environment.

“It was good experience for me in spite of all the problems I faced,” says Edward. “I learned to be patient and to earn most out of this training in preparation for the Paralympics.”

Stage 1 – Wednesday 15th March: 15km Time Trial in Kings Park
Stage 2 – Thursday 16th March: 60km Road Race in Chittering Valley
Stage 3 – Friday 17th March: 3.2km Hill Climb in Brigadoon
Stage 4 – Saturday 18th March: 48km Road Race at Barbagallo Raceway
Stage 5 – Sunday 19th March: 30km Road Race as part of the Freeway Bike Hike

Donate for Edward Maalouf here.