BOISE — The Challenged Athletes Foundation brought their women's hand cycling team to Boise for the first time to race in the Twilight Criterium with other disabled racers.
The Twilight Criterium has hosted a para-cycling event since 2014. This year there were a couple of national champions, a world champion, and several military veterans--both male and female--as well as the Challenged Athletes Foundation team.
"The Challenged Athletes Foundation female team is the only one in the world," said Coach Carlos Moleda. "We think the female population is really under-represented in sports overall and when you talk about disabled sports it is even less than that."
The team features women who range from ages 16 to 48. Some of these women were born with a birth defect causing their disability while others suffered a catastrophic accident, like Alicia Dana who fell from a tree when she was 17-years-old.
"I was just being a crazy teenager and the branch broke and I fell on my back and broke my spine," said Dana. "I became paralyzed from the waste down."
It appeared that Dana's life as an athlete was taken from her, but then she found hand cycling and it has evolved into this team.
"It was just incredibly empowering and I felt like I could express who I was again," said Dana.
"Sports is a great neutralizer," said Moleda. "I think it is the best tool that we have to empower people in order to get there and live a normal and productive life. They realize that they can do so much more and that just opens a lot of doors."
Hand cycling has certainly changed Alicia Dana's life, as she has always been a competitor who loves pushing her body to its limits as an endurance athlete.
"I'm getting really good at suffering, and I got to say that being an endurance athlete helps me in my daily life," said Dana. "Being a person with a disability, there is some suffering, there is some endurance, and there's a lot of obstacles that you have to overcome, so it has helped me cope with being a single mom with a disability in a wheelchair."