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Wheelchair Sports 'wouldn't have happened if Eugene wasn't the TrackTown that it was'

Photo courtesy Oregon Wheelchair Sports

EUGENE, Ore. - The anticipation is rising as the U.S. Olympic Trials get underway on July 1.

Track and field competitions are at the forefront, but there's one element you just can't ignore. For this week's TrackTown Countdown, we dive into the world of wheelchair sports.

The executive director of World Wheelchair Sports in Eugene said wheelchair sports exploded in popularity this spring.

Kevin Hansen was talking about a paraolympic track clinic held in Portland. Nearly 40 young athletes attended the event.

But Hansen said wheelchair sports have been active in Eugene since he started the organization 26 years ago at Hayward Field. Hansen explained that not many cities have opportunities for wheelers.

"World Wheelchair Sports here in Eugene wouldn't have happened if Eugene wasn't the TrackTown that it was," Hansen said.

Hansen's office is full of tools, wheels, and racing chairs. He supplies these items to kids who want to compete.

"They get a $25 year membership and they are good to go."

Because racing equipment is not cheap.

"An average racing chair costs between $2,700 and $3,500, and that's not including the fancy carbon fiber wheels," said Hansen.

Hansen is supplying about 23 chairs to members, including one to Darline Marshall. Darline is an up and coming athlete. We met her for the first time competing at the Youth League Meet at Churchill High School.

"She wants to go to nationals, maybe, and so to qualify for nationals you have to compete and that's why we're here," said Darline's mother Kathi Peterson.

Darline and her mother Kathi drove all the way from Dallas, Oregon to compete. At the track meet, Darline was the only wheeler. But that won't stop her. As Darline continues her athletic career, her mother said they appreciate the community support.

"It's a great opportunity and everybody here has been really super with us."

Darline Marshall recently got into racing. Her coach is Kacey McCallister, who is also part of World Wheelchair Sports. We're definitely going to see more racers like Darline in Eugene. There will be a wheelchair race during the Olympic Trials on July 9th. That's when the Oregon Track Club All Comers Meet will be held at Hayward Field.

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