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‘An extension of yourself’: Adaptive sports athlete from Bend receives grant for new hand cycle

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Bend woman is riding in style after receiving a grant for her own hand bike.

Danielle Watson, an adaptive sports athlete, is breaking barriers in the sport of hand cycling, and finally has her own equipment to do so.

“Amazingly, cycling is very exciting,” Watson said. “There's a lot of strategy and impact and excitement, so I just found the perfect sport to continue with.”

She used to be an avid rock climber, but an accident in 2011 left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Despite the drastic change in the way she'd live her life, her competitive itch stayed the same.

“So from very early on in the hospital, I was Googling 'adaptive sports,'” Watson said. “I didn’t even know that’s what it was called at that point, but I was Googling 'extreme adaptive sports.'”

She quickly got into hand cycling, competing in national and international events, earning a bronze medal in road cycling at the Paralympics and a national champion gold in gravel cycling.

“Oh man, it's so important to have this competitive outlet!” Watson said. “It's so important for me to have goals, and I love to travel, and so I always have on my mind races that I’m planning on going to, and getting to be able to see the world and a lot of the country that way.”

She was doing all this while borrowing hand bikes, which can cost up to $15,000 to buy.

Before competing in Italy this summer for the World Cup, she applied for a grant with the Kelly Brush Foundation, a Vermont-based nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and empower people with spinal cord injuries to be active.

“These nonprofits like the Kelly Brush Foundation help people like me maintain being active and afford this really expensive equipment,” Watson said.

Watson now can train with her bike year-round, and is prepared for any and all races in her future.

“It's so important to have your own equipment, because it's like an extension of yourself,” Watson said.

Watson is also one of the founding members of the first ever all-women hand cycling team.

They hope to encourage more women to get involved in adaptive sports.

Their next team competition is in February in Florida.

Article Topic Follows: Sports

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.


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