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Paralympians Mentor Athletes at Third Annual Angel City Games
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Writer
Published June 29, 2017

Angel City Sports CEO Clayton Frech (left) poses with Paralympic long jumper Ahkeel Whitehead (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

The third annual Angel City Games exposed participants to the most skilled athletes in the United States and provided more opportunities to compete. The games brought together many children and adults of a spectrum of physical disabilities for a weekend of mentorship, training, exercise, and support.

This year, the Angel City Games held competitions in all five sports offered: tennis, basketball, track and field, swimming, and archery. After learning and practicing in clinics, participants can test their improved skills.

“What’s interesting about adaptive sports is this is really the only place that people with all those different disabilities do aggregate is around sport,” said Howard Brodwin, vice president of marketing for Angel City Sports.

Willie Young III at the track and field clinic (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Youth from Los Angeles benefitted from festivities, six-year-old Willie Young III participated in track and field. Young III lost sensation from the chest down after suffering a gunshot injury in January 2017. His Father, Willie Young Jr., noted that his son is eager to learn and compete.

“He likes speed, he likes going fast,” said Willie Young Jr., father of Young III. “He’s picking it all up, he’s soaking it all in and I can’t wait to see him compete, especially something that’s brand new.”

Paralympians showed their support to the Angel City Games by coaching clinics. Among them was San Diego native Ahkeel Whitehead, who competed in the long jump in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games. Whitehead aspires to start the first collegiate adaptive sports program in California at his alma mater, San Diego State University.

Children practicing tennis swings (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

“Our first sport that we are trying to go for is [to] get track and field in there, so all these guys and all these teenagers and kids that you see here have a place to sort of aim towards.” Whitehead said.

Jerome Avery is a guide runner for vision-impaired athletes who participated in four Paralympics. At the 2016 Games, he guided David Brown, the world’s fastest blind man, to a gold medal in the 100m. He also aided long jumper Lex Gillette to a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

“That feeling when I saw [Gillette] get on the podium and the excitement, knowing that I was a part of that and I was able to help somebody, change someone’s life, it definitely was big,” Avery said. “That’s what kept me involved in this sport.”

Paralympian Matt Scott playing in a 3-on-3 basketball game. (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Matt Scott has qualified to play on four different Team USA Paralympic basketball squads. He mentioned how UCLA adaptive program coordinator Michael Garafola invited him to the Angel City Games to teach upcoming basketball players.

“I know L.A. has the 2024 bid, so it would be really nice to bring the Olympics and Paralympics back to America,” Scott said. “I think things like this get awareness out for the Paralympic games to get people excited and involved.”

This year, the Angel City Games has activities that allow others to be exposed to adaptive sports.

“We have, all weekend long, the Angel Experience Zone where anybody can jump in a chair and try to make a free throw,” said Clayton Frech, founder and CEO of the Angel City Games. “What I’m really proud of this year is we’re adding events and elements to the games for the broader community to come and learn about what we’re doing, meet our athletes, engage with our community and essentially participate.”

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