Teamwork mandatory at Eagle County adventure race |

Teamwork mandatory at Eagle County adventure race

Special to the Vail DailyParalympic Military Program Team members Gordon Hardenbergh (head of ER at Vail Valley Medical Center), Ryan Sutter and Cheryl Jensen carry paraplegic athlete Chris Fesmire.

STATE BRIDGE, Colorado – On Friday, athletes of all abilities gathered in Eagle County for the World T.E.A.M. Sports Adventure Team Challenge.

An idea conceived by Erik Weihenmayer, the first visually impaired person to climb Mount Everest, the Adventure Team Challenge was a multi-day, multi-sport team-building wilderness adventure.

After a team training led by Ian Adamson, seven-time world champion adventure racer, and Billy Mattison, adventure racer and co-owner of Timberline Tours, the event kicked off with a cold swim in the Colorado River. Teams had to work together to cross the rapids to retrieve their raft on the other side. Each team consisted of three able-bodied athletes, one wheelchair athlete (paralyzed or double amputee) and one athlete with another form of disability.

“I was amazed how well we worked together instantly,” said Cheryl Jensen, of the Paralympic Military Program Team.

The following two days took the athletes deep into the heart of the Rocky Mountains near State Bridge, rafting the Colorado River, hiking dramatic peaks, traversing on a zip-line and biking through beautiful alpine meadows before completing the race on Sunday at noon. The course was designed so that no single individual could complete the task alone. Each discipline required teams to work together to achieve success.

“We work with each other’s injuries and make a whole body,” said Kathrine Ragazzino, of Team Semper Fi.

Ryan Sutter, of Vail, also on the Paralympic Military Program Team, did not know what to expect. Sutter said he was exhausted after day one, but could not hide how proud he was of himself and his team for overcoming such a great challenge.

Weihenmayer and local Sarah Will (who holds a record 13 medals in four Winter Paralympic Games), members of Team Lumber Liquidator$, navigated the course with ease and cruised to a commanding victory on Sunday morning. But each member of the team and the rest of the competitors in the field will say this event was not about the victory.

The Adventure Team Challenge highlights the potential and capabilities of all participants. Like previous World T.E.A.M. Sports events, this race is about meeting challenges, building camaraderie, and developing the lasting knowledge that all of the participants are integral members of our society.

Many of the athletes included members of the military injured while serving our country. Local athletes participating were Jensen, Sutter, Ruth Demuth, Gordon Hardenbergh, Asa McKee and Carol Pattison.

“(Being injured) is not the end of the road, the door is never closing; it’s always another door opening when you come to events like these,” said Kathrine Ragazzino.

Through events like the Adventure Team Challenge, World T.E.A.M. Sports hopes to empower athletes to achieve success and change the way the world perceives athletes.

World T.E.A.M. Sports thanks Venture Sports, the Timberline Tours staff, Rancho Del Rio Resort and all volunteers who helped out.

For more information about this event or World T.E.A.M sports in general, call Kyle Thomas at (214) 938-2130 or at

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