By Claire Aiello
In 2021, we had the opportunity to see some of our country’s top Para athletes compete in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park. Well, guess what? They’re returning in April – and we can’t wait to welcome and cheer on these inspiring men and women again.
The 2022 U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, presented by Toyota, is scheduled for April 8-10, 2022. There will be three days of racing this year, with Friday featuring something new for our city — handcycle team relays. This will pit nation against nation, racing around Big Spring Park downtown. Think U.S. vs. Canada, Mexico, and more — you don’t want to miss this! Saturday will feature time trials in Cummings Research Park, and Sunday will feature the road races, also in CRP. All three days of racing are open to the public and no tickets are needed. The events are rain or shine.
Last year’s Para-cycling event was considered a qualifying race for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and was somewhat limited due to the pandemic. This year’s event is a C1 classification, open to international athletes. We expect 150-200 athletes and their families and support teams to attend, including athletes from around the United States, neighboring countries and possibly Europe.
“We are so excited to return to Huntsville,” said Ian Lawless, Director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling. “Last April, the entire community welcomed Team USA with open arms and rallied around us as we prepared for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. This year, we will be eyeing the 2022 World Para-cycling Road World Championships, and the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open in Huntsville — this time with an international flair — will again be a key part of that journey.”
Many Para athletes who competed here last year did indeed go on to Tokyo. A few won medals for Team USA, including Oksana Masters (two golds), Shawn Morelli (gold, silver), and Ryan Pinney (bronze). Many of these athletes told our staff and volunteers they had an incredible visit to the Rocket City.
“We heard several times from the athletes about how friendly Huntsville was,” said Erin Koshut, Executive Director of Cummings Research Park. “They said we rolled out the welcome mat, they loved the weather and seeing the ‘green’ in the springtime, because many traveled from colder climates. They also loved the race route in CRP – they said it was challenging and well put together by the race planners.”
Toyota Alabama and Raytheon Technologies have signed on as local event sponsors for the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open. We also thank the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Huntsville Sports Commission, Phoenix, and many additional community partners for their support.
Please check hsvchamber.org/paracycling and cummingsresearchpark.com/paracycling for updates in the coming weeks, and follow Cummings Research Park on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We hope to see restrictions eased a bit this year so there will be more opportunities for spectators to interact with the athletes, and we also have a volunteer signup link posted.