Coming Sunday: The Abilities Expo, and abled-body athletes

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Photo courtesy of the U.S. Paralympic team
U.S. fencer Gerard Moreno, left, sends Russia’s Marat Vusupov leaning back during the sabre competition at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

Gerard Moreno had just finished about an hour jousting with Mario Rodriguez, but didn’t seem to winded.

“I’m used to 2 1/2-hour workouts,” said the 52-year-old Moreno of West L.A. “You feel it more in the shoulders and elbows, sometimes the lower back.”

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Today, he was feeling it in his heart.

Moreno, pictured here, had to be pleased to see people circled around the demonstration he and Rodriguez had just put on in wheelchair fencing, part of the three-day Abilities Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center (info linked here; it continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with another exhibition by Moreno scheduled at 2:30 p.m.).

“I’m always looking for new recruits,” said Moreno, a three-time participant in the Paralympic Games, including last summer in Beijing.

As life rolls on, Moreno and Rodriguez prefer being mobile. Their demonstration took place to show that sports can be an important part of the life for anyone who feels that a disability — especially one that confines one to a wheelchair — may have grounded their dreams.

Rodriguez, who trains in Santa Barbara, said that a cracked hip from a low-speed motorcycle accident led to terminal cancer, where a doctor told him 25 years ago that he’d only have six months to live. He fought back, although seven years ago, he had his right leg amputated.

“Fencing isn’t popular in the U.S.,” said Rodriguez. “There’s a lot of romanticizing about the sword play, but it’s a discipline that you don’t realize how difficult it is until you work at it.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what sport you participate in — be passionate about it, burn some calories, feel better about yourself, have fun and, if you have a competitive streak, you’ll find out the rules of a sport and take it from there.”

In Sunday’s column, we’ll focus a little more on the success of Moreno, who earlier this month won the bronze medal at the World Cup competition in Montreal.

Until then …

More information:
== Gerard Moreno’s bio on the U.S. Paralympic site (linked here)
== Info on the Los Angeles International Fencing Center, where Moreno trains (linked here)

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