Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Paralympic Games: A look at the locals

The Paralympic Games, showcasing more than 4,000 athletes with disabilities from 120 countries, will follow the Olympic Games in Athens, from Sept. 17-18. The Paralympics will feature 21 sports, 18 of which are also in the Olympics.

The first Paralympics were in Rome in 1960, with 400 athletes from 23 countries. In 1988 in Seoul, the modern-day practice of the Olympic host nation also hosting the Paralympic Games began.

Six athletes from the state of Washington have qualified for the U.S. team:

Justin Fleming, 17, Redmond, swimming. Fleming, a senior-to-be at Lake Washington High School, won the 400-meter freestyle and was second in the 100 butterfly at the Paralympic swimming trials in Minneapolis. Competing in the S8 classification of functional abilities, he swam 5 minutes, 7.55 seconds in the 400 free and 1:18.35 in the 100 butterfly. He also won the 50, 100 and 200 free, was second in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM. His lower right leg was amputated after multiple birth defects left him without an ankle or hip joint. He also plays the trumpet and competes in wheelchair basketball.

Jacob Heilveil, 34, Bothell, track and field. Heilveil left San Jose, Calif. — where he qualified for the Paralympics in the 1,500, 5,000, 10,000 and marathon — on May 22, then drove 13 hours to arrive in time for the start of the Beat the Bridge race in Seattle the next day. He won his wheelchair division in 19:10 (for 8 kilometers), the ninth straight year he has won the event. He also competed in the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, placing 14th in the marathon in 1:35:06.

Jeff Skiba, 19, Olympia, track and field. Born without a fibula in his left leg because of fibular hemimelia, Skiba's leg was amputated below the knee when he was 10 months old. As a sophomore at Skyline High School, he was noticed by the track coach while playing basketball. In his first meet, Skiba cleared 6 feet, 2 inches in the high jump, and later set the world record at 6-11. He won the Washington Class 3A high-jump title in 2001. In 2001, he got his first prosthetic foot designed specifically for running, the Flex-Sprint, which he now uses to train for sprinting and the long jump.

Mike Peters, 35, Seattle, soccer. Peters has served as the captain of every team he has been a member of in international competition since 1996. In 1998, he was also named to the world all-star team during the world championship. Peters, who has cerebral palsy, discovered Paralympic sports while doing Internet research for a graduate studies course. Peters currently teaches at the University of Washington and is working on completing his PhD in communication. He also serves on the U.S. Olympic Committee athletes' advisory council as the Paralympic summer sports representative. He is engaged to Emily deRiel, a 2000 silver medalist at the Olympic Games in Sydney in the sport of modern pentathlon.

Jason Slemons, 24, Seattle, soccer. Slemons, who has cerebral palsy, plays midfield/defense. He traveled to Argentina to the world championships, placing sixth, which gave the U.S. team an automatic berth in the Games. Slemons grew up in Alaska and attend USC and California before entering UW's grad school at the age of 20, and is now working on his second master's in applied math.

Glenn Bunselmeyer, Bellevue, cycling (a pilot, no disability). Has been road racing for more than 14 years. In 1999, he was named Washington state's best all-around rider in masters 40-44 age group. He has won several state and national masters races.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


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