‘Team Nancy’ makes history in Honolulu

Joelle Milholm
Post Independent Staff
Submitted photoNancy Stevens, left, and Nancy Reinisch stand on top of the podium. Stevens is sight-impaired and Reinisch guides the duo through their races. The team won the JAL Honolulu World Championships on Oct. 1.

Nancy Stevens is a local triathlon runner and a member of the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team, but something makes her unique ” she is blind and competes with a guide.

She has been teaming up with Nancy Reinisch for three years now, but on Oct. 9, Team Nancy made history. The team entered the JAL Honolulu World Championships and won it. It was an Olympic distance course consisting of a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike ride and a 10K run. She was the first blind runner to enter the race, The Post Independent recently sat down with the Nancys to find out more about their accomplishment.

What was it about this race appealed to you and made you want to enter?

NANCY STEVENS: We qualified after running a race in Chicago on Aug. 28 and qualified to go. We hoped there would be other seeing-impaired triathletes from all over the world there and we could see how we measure up, but there weren’t any. There either isn’t any or they didn’t come. Since I wasn’t racing anyone, I made personal goals of beating the other four disabled runners in the race, improving my time from Chicago.

Did you accomplish your goal?

STEVENS: Our time in Chicago was 3:21 and in Hawaii it was 3:19. I also beat the other four runners.

Each part of the event has its own challenges. What were they for each leg of the race and how did you go through them together?

How was the swim?

STEVENS: This year we have decided to use a bungee. There is three feet between us and it allows us to swim better. You can’t extend your arm all the way because it hits the bungee, but it is worth not having that extra pull. It helped keep us together in the waves and no one can swim between us, either.

NANCY REINISCH: We have used it every single race this year. The only trouble is getting out because people try to pull us out one at a time at the end, but we are attached.

How was the bike?

STEVENS: We have a tandem bike and that is our easiest part of the race in terms of figuring out how we will be attached. Instead of shipping our bike over, we rented a bike from a man there and it was his own personal bike. It had the latest technology and was really light. Nancy had a fancy shifter on the front, which was good for her, but we both struggle with who wants to be in control.

REINISCH: We cruised.

STEVENS: It was so much fun, we were flying.

How was the run?

STEVENS: Nancy attaches a string to her belt and I have the other side around my wrist. Then I will put my hand on her wrist when we go around the corners. It works well because we can both swing our arms.

REINISCH: I knew we had made it by the time we got to the run. You can get a flat tire or something can happen earlier in the race, but once you get to the run, you can literally crawl across the line if you have to. My biggest challenge is to focus and not get distracted talking to Nancy too much because I have to remember to tell her what’s going on.

What happened after you won?

STEVENS: We got up on the winners podium and got a medal.

REINISCH: We got up there and Nancy faced the wrong way because I forgot to tell her. The crowd went wild and cheered”it was really funny.

STEVENS: I was so excited to be up there that I didn’t even think about which way to face.

You were on the U.S. ParaOlympic Cross Country team in 1993 and competed in Japan, but this a pretty significant win. How does this compare to all of your other accomplishments in your career?

STEVENS: I never would have imagined this. This is pretty high up there.

REINISCH: We are the only all-women, master’s level blind and sighted guide team in the U.S. and we just hope to be a role model for other sight-impaired athletes, especially women, and hopefully we can go to another world championship and have more competition.

It has been a very eventful year. Have you thought about the future and what’s next for you?

STEVENS: Someone else asked me that after the race and I said, ‘Take a nap.’ Nancy and I will meet in January and decided if she just wants to run for herself or be my guide again. We will decide what we want to do, what races we want to enter and what our goals are.

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