Wheelchair race under the Unisphere


By Queens Courier Staff |

The Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was the setting for the second annual “Crank to the Finish,” an eight-mile, hand-cycling competition for persons with disabilities.

The brisk morning chill on Saturday, November 7 had no effect on the morale of the 24 eager racers who wanted only to break the yellow finish line tape that signaled a win in the uphill hand-cycling race – though the prize money did not hurt either.

“The purpose of the event is to create a competition for people who have a disability but still want stay active,” said John Hamre, president of the Wheelchair Sports Federation. “We had over $1,600 in prize money to go towards all the different divisions.”

The 24 participants all used hand cycles, which are made up of three-wheeled frames with hand crank pedals instead of foot pedals. Everyone entered in the event had been stricken with loss of movement or feeling in their legs.

The overall winner, Ricardo Corral, 49, covered the eight-mile course with a time of 29 minutes, 15 seconds and took home $250 in prize money.

“This win feels really good and I won only because I stayed positive,” said Corral, who once was a long-time Corona native and is now living in the Bronx. “The competition this year was great… I’m friends with most of the people in it.”

Corral, who came to the United States from Ecuador many years ago, lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident when he was 22.

Before competing in the “Crank to the Finish” event, Corral took part in the grueling 26.2-mile ING NYC Marathon on Sunday, November 1. He trains vigorously and switches up his style for speed events such as this competition, and long distance events like the NYC Marathon.

“I train through time trials and work on my uphill technique – that is what pushed me ahead of my competition . . . knowing how to get around those tricky hills,” Corral said.

Ranging in age from 12 to 62, the participants had different skill levels as they vied for the glory.

“Twelve-year-old Nia Best had her first race on Saturday with us,” Hamre said. “It was an overall great local competition for the participants, who all want to come back and do it again,” he added.

Hamre is already planning for next year’s event.

“We want to keep it local, get more people involved, and definitely raise the amount of prize money for every division,” he said.