It’s not every day you get a phone call asking if you’d like to compete in the Paralympics. But on Tuesday, August 23, Aaron Scheidies got that call.
After a devastating end to the July 2nd Paralympic Trials, Aaron and his anchor, Ben Collins, thought their Road to Rio had been cut short. As they proceeded to their final lap of the course, they realized the chain on their tandem bike had broken. They ran the rest of the race with the bike beside them, knowing that they couldn’t do anything else. “It was truly like choking down years of my life that seemed like wasted time,” Aaron remarked.
After that heartbreaking day, he decided to focus his energy on the Paratriathlon World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, which were just a few weeks later. He swept the competition in his PT5 category, placing first by a margin of 1 minute and 14 seconds.
Aaron (left) and Ben (right) competing in the Paralympic trials in Charlotte, NC.
Aaron was busy making a transition back to a new chapter of life – preparing to go back to working full time as a physical therapist and resting from traveling – when he saw an interesting article.
“I was doing my daily scrolling through Google News when I came across the article titled, ‘Russian Appeal on Banned from Paralympics Denied,’” Aaron stated. After a doping scandal with Russian Olympians, the IOC decided against allowing the team to compete. He immediately shared the link with Ian Lawless, the High Performance Director at US Para-Cycling. Ian then asked him if he would like to be on a conference call later that day, along with Ben.
“I came off this phone call with a pretty good suspicion as to what the conference call would be regarding but I didn’t want to jump to too many conclusions,” Aaron stated. “I had been wrong on my assumptions before with Para-Cycling and wanted to keep the emotional rollercoaster ride in check.”
However, Aaron did know that the Russians planned to send six male para-cycling athletes to compete. Those spots were waiting to be reallocated. “I knew that I was probably the highest ranked athlete that without a confirmed spot to Rio.”
As Aaron frantically tried to get a hold of him, Ben was on one of his last solo bike rides for a while; they got the call informing them that US Para-Cycling received an invitation to Rio in Aaron’s name. When they asked Aaron who his pilot would be, he responded with a chuckle, “Well, since Ben is on the phone with us, I guess I will ask him.”
Before they had time to let it sink in, the voice on the other line gave them one more piece of information. “We would like you to be at the prep camp by August 25th.” Being just two days later, Aaron’s jaw dropped.
He and Ben took a deep breath before they called one another. After talking their plans over with their wives, it was time to take the opportunity they had trained so long for. “We were both a little overwhelmed,” Aaron stated, “by not only all the packing and preparation, but also the fact that we needed to get back on the bike right away.”
Aaron related the following week to feeling like they were cramming for a test. Although the cycling duo was surprised, they were not ill-prepared. “When we were called on August 23rd about our selection to the US Team in Para-Cycling for Rio, we were definitely in shock but both Ben and I are competitors,” he explained. “The first thing that came through our heads was, ‘We gotta train!’ We didn’t have time to ponder over the situation.”
Tune in to watch Spartan alumnus Aaron Scheidies and his tandem partner Ben Collins go for gold in the Rio Paralympics from September 14-17.