Triathlon Strong: Aspen’s Win Charles an Inspiring IRONMAN Championship Hopeful

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Living with two major medical conditions would be excuse enough for most people to sit still. For Aspen, Co. native Win Charles, it’s the perfect motivation to get up and move — as a triathlete. Charles and her triathlon partner, Barbara Ann Bernard, hope to move all the way to the Big Island of Hawaii this fall. At stake is a slot in the IRONMAN Kona Inspired program, which awards seven starting spots in the annual IRONMAN World Championship event on Hawaii’s Kona Coast.

Living with two major medical conditions would be excuse enough for most people to sit still. For Aspen, Co. native Win Charles, it’s the perfect motivation to get up and move — as a triathlete.

Charles and her triathlon partner, Barbara Ann Bernard, hope to move all the way to the Big Island of Hawaii this fall. At stake is a slot in the IRONMAN Kona Inspired program, which awards seven starting spots in the annual IRONMAN World Championship event on Hawaii’s Kona Coast.

The Kona Inspired program honors athletes with exceptional stories, and Charles fits every criteria. Born with cerebral palsy and severe scoliosis, she hasn’t allowed either disease’s debilitating effects to ground her.

“I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy 25 years ago,” Charles said. “I still hold the record for being the smallest baby born at Aspen Valley Hospital. I would like to set another record in my life and be the first female team with cerebral palsy to complete the Kona IRONMAN.”

Charles and Bernard, who are cousins, compete in triathlons under the “Team weWin” banner — the first female team to have attempted an IRONMAN competition.
But, they need the public’s help to win their starting slot in Kona.

Each finalist for the 2013 Kona Inspired program has submitted a 90-second video describing how he or she lives the IRONMAN mantra, “Anything is Possible.” Those videos are posted on the Kona Inspired website (http://konainspired.thismoment.com/us/facebook/facebookapp), in three groups of 15.

Two winners will be chosen from each group, via public vote, along with one “at-large” winner chosen from the 45-finalist pool.

Team weWin is in the second group of 2013 Kona Inspired hopefuls, a voting period that began Monday, June 17 and ends June 27 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The triathlete cousins estimate they need approximately 50,000 votes to win.

“I’m a disabled woman living a non-disabled life,” Charles said. “I would love to show the world at Kona that any disabled person could go Kona, not necessarily focus on the disability — focus on what we all have in common.”

An artist and an author who has written about her battle with cerebral palsy, Charles teams up with Bernard in an inspiring manner.

An experienced triathlete, IRONMAN competitor and the 2012 IRONMAN Executive Challenge Women’s Athlete of the Year, Bernard will swim the 2.4 miles pulling her cousin in an inflatable boat, cycle 112 miles with Charles in tow on a recumbent bicycle and run the final 26.2 miles pushing her in a special wheelchair.

Months of tough training have bonded the cousins and helped Charles experience new-found independence and confidence. It also has raised funding and awareness for the Challenged Athlete Foundation, plus inspired numerous “handi-capable” children — as Team weWin’s video is entitled — with “The Iron Will to Win.”

“We’re achieving a dream that no one thought we could ever achieve,” Charles said.

To vote for Team weWin, visit http://konainspired.thismoment.com?x=us-en_kona_805_ .

Follow Team weWin on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TeamWeWin and Twitter @TeamWeWin. Use the hashtag #TeamWeWin to cheer the team on.

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Tom Pokorny