“I’ve done a lot of sports events, and I-Ride is the best event I’ve done,” Adam Rose, 15, says. A competitive hand-cyclist since the age of 12, Adam has a lot to compare it to. Over his tenure as a young athlete, Adam has competed in a long list of elite-level hand-cycling races and sporting events. He and his parents spend many weekends on the road, going to hand-cycling races around Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and beyond, and photos of Adam on the winner’s podium at most of these races fill his dad’s expansive photo collection.
Every year, Adam and his parents, Don and Lori Rose, participate in the Ann Arbor CIL’s cycling event, called Independence Ride, or “I-Ride.” I-Ride is a four-day adaptive cycling event in which people with and without disabilities ride from Holland, Michigan, to Ann Arbor. This past year 150 people participated in the event, and 35 cyclists rode the entire journey from Holland to Ann Arbor.
Adam is no ordinary, super-star athlete, though. When Adam was four, he had leukemia which nearly took his life. “There were times when Adam was so weak and taken by the cancer, I didn’t think he’d make it,” Don says. But Adam fought back, and his cancer has now been in remission for 11 years. Adam has a T10 spinal cord injury which he sustained from a rare adverse reaction to one of his chemotherapy treatments. As a result Adam is paralyzed from the waist down.
When reflecting on the long battle Adam has had with leukemia and paralysis, Don admits, “it’s been hard. I had to quit my job the first year of Adam’s leukemia, and there have been so many medical visits. But now I watch him, big, strong, and so independent. It’s amazing to see.”
Adam is now a sophomore at Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township. “Disability has shaped my life,” he says. “What’s simple for most kids is a challenge for me. But using a wheelchair, you learn to adapt. Having a disability has made me more appreciative of things around me. I have a better attitude toward life because of it.”
Adam started handcycling when he was seven and also got involved in wheelchair basketball when he was eight. When he entered his first handcycling race at the age of 12, his love of competitive cycling took off from there.
Adam and his family began participating in the CIL’s I-Ride event two years ago. “Before the first I-Ride, I was nervous,” Adam said. “Up until that point, I had only competed in marathons, which take about 2-3 hours. I-Ride is a lot more intense.” Don added, “I didn’t know if he could do it, but he did.”
Now with three I-Rides under his belt, Adam says, “I-Ride is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of joking around, and everyone is like a big family. It’s one of the only events where able-bodied and disabled people ride side-by-side. There are no disabilities or special abilities. We’re all the same.”
“Although Adam has been one of the youngest adult participants in the event,” Don said, “being in sports with older adults with disabilities has had a huge impact on him. He sees them excelling at sports and at life. The other guys show him there can be a good life ahead. We look forward to doing I-Ride for many years to come. It’s the highlight of our summer.”
Adam’s goals for the future? “The Paralympics,” he says. “I want to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic hand-cycling team in 2012 or 2016. I’m only 15. We never thought I’d be this good this young – I can only imagine how much better I can become. It’s getting exciting.”