Approximately 33,000 people participated in Saturday’s Cooper River Bridge Run, but the first group to cross the finish line were members of the wheelchair division.
Using three-wheeled racing chairs, amputees and people with spinal cord injuries pushed their way across the Ravenel Bridge, through downtown Charleston and across the finish line.
It was a close race for Alexandre Dupont of Canada and Illinois resident James Senbeta. Alex came in first at 26 minutes, seven seconds, while James came wheeling across seconds later.
This is the fourth consecutive year Alex has won the wheelchair division.
Carly Pearson won the women’s wheelchair division in 50 minutes, 41 seconds.
Racing into the Hall of Fame
Wheelchair racing is a competitive sport for these athletes. They train for months at a time preparing for races all over the country. But, there’s one guy who helped start the wheelchair racing division of the Bridge Run…that’s Eugene “Genie” Wellons!
Genie was inducted into the Cooper River Bridge Run Hall of Fame Friday. After Genie sustained a spinal cord injury from being in a car accident in 1990, he learned about the adapted sport. Not only was racing a form of recreation, but it was a way to help him recover.
Over the past two decades, Genie participated in a number of races, including the SC Wheelchair Games, James Island Connector Run, Kiawah Half Marathon, Peachtree Road Race, LA Marathon and, of course, the Bridge Run.
He has officially retired from competitive racing, but still enjoys being around the action. Genie helps with the logistics for the division when preparing for races.
Genie has broken barriers for the wheelchair racing community and continues to make an impact today. He says, “All I ever wanted to do, was to open the road for others with a disability and just to be accepted….as a member of the racing community!”