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Local athlete lobbies for more adaptive highland games

Zach Vance • Updated Mar 26, 2016 at 10:04 PM

Alexander Armor can easily heave a caber farther than most people.

And he does it from a modified wheelchair.

The 30-year-old Army veteran loves competing in Highland heavy athletic events, but faces one issue — there’s only one event in the region where he can exhibit his passion, much less compete in.

He wants to change that.

“I just want to show people that the wheelchair doesn’t mean anything, I can chuck heavy things,” Armor said. “My goal is to show that I’m still able to do a lot of things, and hopefully take down one more barrier to adaptive sports in a game that not many people would even wrap their heads around someone doing in a wheelchair.”

Of all the highland heavy athletic events scattered across the United States, Armor has found only five with an adaptive athlete division. Four of those highland games are on the west coast and the midwest, and only one is located on the east coast— the Tri-Cities Highland Games.

Armor, who’s medically retired, said he is just asking for a chance to show people it’s possible for someone in a wheelchair to compete in heavy athletics.

“Even if they don’t have a division, with me just throwing, they can see hands-on that there are people who want to do this and can do this,” Armor said.

Armor, who’s been in the Tri-Cities since 2010, said he hopes by spreading awareness about an adaptive division, more people confined to wheelchairs will see inspiration in their own lives.

“Say (someone) thought they were confined to a wheelchair and hadn’t left their house, they see a video or a picture of me throwing a caber, they’re going to be like ‘you know what, if he’s strong enough to do that, I’m strong enough to go out (of the house) and do something on my own,’ “ Armor said.

Armor has lobbied other highland games around the region to include an adaptive division, including the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, but has not been allowed because it is a qualifying event for the National Highland Games.

Part of the problem of implementing an adaptive division also lies in the funding required — the weights for adaptive athletes differ from those in the other divisions.

Brenden Bohannon, organizer of the Tri-Cities Highland Games and founder of Tennessee Highland Heavy Athletics, said he had a few thousand dollars in his small set of weights.

“A big part of it — and I understand this — is money,” Armor said. “If they’re trying to throw in another division, that means you’re going to need more judges, and when you’re doing something for the first time, you can’t guarantee what kind of turnout you’re going to get.”

Armor approached Bohannon several months ago about letting him compete in this year’s games, and Bohannon was easily convinced.

“Alex found the (adaptive) rules for us and we talked to the other guys who helped me do judging and I was like ‘this is what we need to do for the adaptive (athletes)’ and made some modifications of my own,” Bohannon said

Two adaptive athletes competed in the Tri-Cities Highland Games, which took place on March 12: Ed Begley and Armor.

Bohannon said he hopes keep growing the division much like the whole event has grown since the inaugural year.

Armor is also seeking sponsors to help support him travel to compete in the few heavy athletic games that support adaptive athletes.

You can reach Armor at alexthetankarmor@gmail.com or follow him at www.facebook.com/​alexthetankarmor.

The next Tri-Cities Highland Games will take place in June at Peak Fitness.

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP

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