Bothell's Jacob Heilveil, 26, trains hard in the business park and on local trails for long-distance wheelchair racing at the upcoming Paraolympics and exhibition trials coming this summer.
Photo by Jeff Switzer/Woodinville Weekly.
by Jeff Switzer
After 14 years of competing, Jacob Heilveil feels he's starting to gain some respect in his sport. The 26-year-old Bothell resident won the Pittsburgh Marathon two weeks ago and has placed in several Paraolympics trials. He'll be heading for France to compete there next month.
Born in Korea, Heilveil lost the use of his legs after being diagnosed with polio at the age of six months. He was adopted at age 11 by the Heilveils in Hawaii, and at age 12 began working with Jim Martinson, another wheelchair athlete, who served as Heilveil's motivation and inspiration.
Now, after the three-year Bothell resident placed first out of a field of 20 in the marathon two weeks ago, he feels things are coming together.
"I'd won races before, but this one was pretty big," said Heilveil. He added that the wide media coverage, interviews, and time on the winners' podium have given him good memories.
After the Pittsburgh win, he flew down to Atlanta to participate in the trials for the Paraolympics, competing against regional winners. Heilveil won first place in the 10,000-meter, second in the 5,000-meter and 800-meter, and third in the 1,500, qualifying him for the Paraolympics, which begin two weeks after the conclusion of the Olympics in Atlanta.
The top three from the 1,500 now go to France to compete against athletes from around the world; the top eight from that field will be in an exhibition race during the Atlanta Olympics.
"I've competed with these guys before in marathons and road races. I know what the competition is like," Heilveil said. "I used to get beaten pretty bad, but now I've got new racing chairs, I'm doing really well, and training really hard."
Heilveil hopes that the sport grows to the next level after the media coverage and the high profile during the Olympics.
He believes a lot of athletes don't know how to get started in the sport and would like to be a role model for young people who want to get involved and compete.