by Rachel Solon
Paralympic sailors at the Cork County Council IFDS World Championships were held ashore this morning as race management waited on the sea breeze to fill in however by lunchtime a decision was made to cancel racing for the day.
This is the second day this week that sailing had to be postponed but the good news is that there are stronger winds forecast for the remainder of the week. Westerlies of 11 knots are expected for Thursday with winds up to 16 knots on Friday.
The regatta only needs four races to make a championship. Yesterday the Sonar class completed three races and the 2.4mR and Skud 18 classes completed two each. All three will definitely be racing tomorrow and Friday to complete the series and decide the 2013 world champions.
Although the lack of wind meant no racing, it did allow time to hear some of the athlete’s remarkable stories. Once such story is that of USA Sonar sailor Bradley Johnson.
Bradley Johnson (USA) is a Sonar sailor who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but who now lives in Pampano Beach in Florida where he works as a lawyer. Bradley has represented the USA at three Paralympic Games; Sydney 2000 on the volleyball team, Athens 2004 where he won bronze for sailing and London 2012 where he finished sixth.
As a student in 1993, Bradley was driving back to Tampa where he was at university when his car aquaplaned and hit the guardrail which severed both his legs off. 'I was conscious and remember seeing my legs cut off and thankfully a good Samaritan came along and applied tourniquets to both my legs while they called emergency services. I had just completed my law school entrance exam and had not taken time out from my studies to get new tyres for my car. In some ways I think it was meant to be as I do not think I would have had such a fulfilled life if the accident had not happened' says Bradley.
It was almost a year to the day when Bradley eventually started law school after a number of operations and waiting on his wounds to heel before prosthetics could be fitted. 'The doctors told me I only survived the accident because I was fit and loved running and also because I remained so calm' continued Johnson.
And in fact it was his wish to run again that led him to Paralympic sport. Over the years Bradley has upgraded his prosthesis and one of his legs is fitted with an intuitive microchip which remembers his movements and predicts his gait and corrects it.
While in a waiting room at the prosthetics clinic, Bradley was leafing through a magazine when he came across a feature on a Paralympic athletics event in Virginia. He drove 12 hours to the camp where he successfully learned to run with his new prosthetic legs. It was also at the camp that he was invited to attend another Paralympic training camp in New York specifically for volleyball, which he had played recreationally before his accident. After the camp he was selected to represent the USA and travelled to Sydney to compete in the 2000 Paralympics.
At the end of the Sydney Games Bradley was introduced to the USA sailing coach who asked him if he would try sailing. He started sailing in Miami, Florida while also continuing with his volleyball but when both teams were selected for Athens 2004 a decision had to be made. 'I then had to make a choice – sailing or volleyball? Sailing on the med instead of being stuck in a hall? It was no brainer' stated Bradley.
Bradley went on to win bronze in Athens and also represented the USA at London 2012 where he and his two teammates finished sixth. He is now here in Kinsale with a new crew as they begin their three year road to hopeful Rio 2016 qualification.
Bradley is currently lying in 14th position in Kinsale.
IFDS Worlds website