A BAHAMIAN woman and her disabled cousin are asking people for their support in fulfilling their ultimate dream of completing one the world’s toughest physical challenges.
Barbara Ann Bernard, 33, of Nassau, who is a triathlete, and her cousin Win Charles, 26, of Aspen, are finalists in an internet poll which could see them entered in the Ironman World Championships that take place in Hawaii in October.
Bahamians have until tomorrow at midnight to vote for the duo to give them a chance to become the first female team with cerebral palsy to cross the finish line of the race. (See below for how to vote). Barbara Ann has been doing triathlons for two years.
Most recently, she placed first in the Ironman XC Executive Challenge at the Ironman World Championships 2012 in Kona, which she qualified for at Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
In 2011, she founded a triathlon in Nassau called UWC Triathlon Bahamas, which seeks to raise
scholarship funds for Bahamian students to study abroad at United World Colleges.
A hedge fund analyst, Barbara Ann approached Win – who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was a year old and is a wheelchair user – with the idea of doing triathlons together as a team in January.
As “Team weWin,” they have been tirelessly planning and training ever since.
With Barbara Ann in Nassau and Win in Aspen, distance could have proven to be a struggle, but it hasn’t.
Barbara Ann said she supports Win with regular calls and emails to give encouragement and advice on training.
Barbara Ann will swim 2.4 miles pulling Win in an inflatable boat, cycle 112 miles with Win in a recumbent bike attached to hers, and then finally run 26.2 miles pushing Win in a wheelchair in a single continuous event.
“The bike is the hardest part, because Win’s bike is 100 pounds and Win is a little more than 100 pounds, so with her in it, I am peddling about twice my body weight,” Barbara Ann said.
But already the project has given Win life-changing confidence and independence, inspired numerous “handi-capable” children and raised awareness for cerebral palsy.
“As a family, we have already won,” Barbara Ann said.
“Win has become so passionate about triathlon that all she wants to do is workout, ride her bike. And last Friday, she actually walked across the hall independently. She has not walked since a failed surgery five years ago. Additionally, when I race with Win, everyone on the course tells her that she inspires them and I wholeheartedly believe this is the beginning of her career as an inspirational speaker and spokesperson for other disabled people. Lastly, the response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. A few companies, and locally here in Nassau, KPMG, have asked to sponsor Team weWin. We have accepted, and 100 per cent of those funds are being sent to the Challenged Athletes Foundation to enable several other ‘handi-capable’ teams to participate in sport.”
Asked what entering and completing the Ironman Kailua-Kona would mean to her, Win said: “Being the first female team would be huge at Kona, because not very many disabled people even think about doing Kona, let alone crossing the finish line. I hope we as Team weWin cross the finish line at Kona.
“What makes Team weWin special is that we’re achieving a dream that no one thought we could ever achieve. My philosophy on life is, ‘we can try it one way, but if it doesn’t’ work, try another way – and don’t give up’.
“I’m a disabled woman living a non-disabled life. I would love to show the world at Kona that any disabled person could do Kona, not necessarily focused on the disability; focus on what we all have in common: we all love sports, we’re all in it to do it together and celebrate the passion for life. What we all have in common is the iron will to live.”
• Bahamians wishing to support Team weWin can vote for Win Charles at http://bit.ly/12QBd6f OR go to www.ironman.com, http://www.ironman.com/ under the Word Champions tab, then go to “Help These Athletes Get to Kona.”
READ The Big T this Saturday to see if the duo get a shot at fulfilling their Ironman dream.