Better Together: Bahamian Triathlete Barbara Ann Bernard Powers Cousin’s IRONMAN Quest

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Competitive triathlete Barbara Ann Bernard announces her desire to earn a spot in the IRONMAN triathlon along with her cousin who was born cerebral palsy and severe scoliosis. The pair are competing now for a spot as part of the Kona Inspired program.

Triathlon competition may be a solitary pursuit, but veteran triathlete Barbara Ann Bernard has a unique and inspiring training partner — her cousin, Win Charles. Not only does Charles train with Bernard, the two compete as a team, a unique situation given Charles’ cerebral palsy and severe scoliosis.

Self-dubbed, “Team weWin,” the cousins — Bernard from Nassau, Bahamas, and Charles from Aspen, Co. — have announced their effort to compete this fall at the annual IRONMAN World Championship event on the Big Island of Hawaii’s Kona Coast.

Their goal is a slot in the IRONMAN Kona Inspired program, which awards seven starting spots in the annual IRONMAN world championship triathlon. The Kona Inspired program honors athletes with exceptional stories and Bernard’s and Charles’ fit those criteria.

An artist, Charles, 25, was born with both medical conditions. Bernard, 33, is a Bahamas-based financial analyst and seasoned triathlete. By pooling creativity and determination, they’re tackling athletic challenges together.

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

Team weWin — the first female team to have attempted an IRONMAN competition — needs public help to reach that goal

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 Web site (http://konainspired.thismoment.com), 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, whose video is titled, “The Iron Will to Win,” estimate they need approximately 50,000 votes.

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

“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.”

In one recent training event, the 30th annual St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 28, Team weWin finished 800 out of 825 female competitors.

As an Executive Challenge Athlete, Bernard finished last year’s IRONMAN World Championship in 12:42:00, ranked 62nd among women ages 30-34.

The cousins’ tough training has helped Charles experience a new independence and confidence. It also has raised money and awareness for the Challenged Athlete Foundation, plus inspired numerous “handi-capable” children.

“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/base/kona?region_id=us-en&content_id=805&tab_id=23.

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
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