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As many as 30 students at James Clemens High participated in a Zoom call with Paralympic athletes who are expected to be a part of the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open scheduled for April 17-18 at Cummings Research Park. Photo- John Peck, Madison City Schools

Special Students, Special Athletes Meet Via Zoom To Share Life Experiences

MADISON- With bright smiles coming from both participating students and two Paralympic athletes, James Clemens High and other schools in the area held a Zoom call with participants in the upcoming U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open. Students were allowed to ask questions and receive answers about the Madison area and being a Paralympic athlete.

Special Ed students displayed handmade posters showing the enthusiasm within the community for the two-day event, which is a qualifying cycling event for Team USA and the Tokyo Games this summer. The two participating athletes were Clara Brown, 25, of Falmouth, Maine and Noah Middlestaedt of Saint Cloud, Minn. Both athletes made their Zoom call from Charlotte, N.C. where they continue to prepare for the two-day racing event scheduled to be held at Cummings Research Park.

In all, 30 students took part of the Zoom call displayed on large monitors. A banter of questions were presented to both Brown and Middlestaedt with smiles and laughter aplenty. The athletes pressed the importance of pushing through difficulties in life, setting goals and putting in the time necessary to reach those goals. In return, the athletes asked the students their recommendations of things to do while in the Huntsville area and the best places to eat. Overall, two suggestions were offered- visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and chow down at Marcos Pizza.

Among the conversation between the students and athletes the subjects of the training regimen both Brown and Middlestaedt endure and unique cycling experiences and highest speeds traveling on their cycles. Brown spoke of her experience of competing in a race in Vietnam during a monsoon and Middlestaedt told of the beauty of his surroundings while he raced in Italy. As for speed, Brown said 55 miles per hour was her tops speeding down a mountain while Middlestaedt said he, too, hit top speeds of around 55 down a mountain in Boulder, Colo.

Racing for the athletes went dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic and the first race in over a year will be the stop here in North Alabama. Brown said the stall in action was good in on sense as it gave the athletes an extra year to prep for competition, but added, “We travel quite a bit around the world and to just be able to stay in one place for a year and train as hard as we can and maximize our time to get to Tokyo has been nice.”

The students were proud of their posters and in their support for the athletes who have life struggles in similar ways as some of the students. The connection was a beneficial experience for both students and athletes.

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