In Sports, Wheelin' and Dealin' by Beth Bourgeois

Magnus Liljedahl, winner of the Star Class Sailing 2000 Olympic Gold Medal for the USA, is spearheading the newly named TeamPARADISE effort in Coconut Grove, Florida.

The program, which teaches racing skills to the disabled, is being established under the auspices of Shake-A-Leg Miami (SALM), one of the largest, fully accessible community water sports center in the world.

Established in 1990, it is dedicated to improving the independence of people with disabilities and youth and making water sports accessible and safe for able-bodied, the disabled and the underprivileged.

Competitive sailing, often called “blue water chess,” is particularly suited for the physically challenged because of its reliance on brainpower more than raw strength.

While racing demands a series of precise skills and intricate teamwork, success depends largely on experience and the hours spent practicing on the water.

TeamPARADISE participants will therefore spend much of their time sailing and learning skills through on-the-water drills, practice starts and short races that pit them against the very best sailors on the globe.

The program emphasizes teamwork to inspire its students to overlook their handicaps and reach for their loftiest goals.

The program’s motto, “the reward is in the journey,” was chosen to reflect the Olympic ideal of pure competition and to showcase that for TeamPARADISE participants training is life enhancing and not just about winning medals.

“Part of our mission here – the reason for the marriage of Shake a Leg Miami and TeamPARADISE – is to broaden and deepen the pool of disabled participants at the elite level,” said Harry Horgan, co-founder and executive director of Shake a Leg Miami.

He noted that even the most severely disabled can participate in and enjoy sailing.

A glittering group of international sailing medallists has agreed to participate in the program, including the US Sailing Association’s Rolex Sailor of the Year for 2000; the 470 USA 2004 Olympic gold medallist Kevin Burnham; 2000 Olympic Bronze medallist and the top ranked Star sailor in the world, Freddy Loof of Sweden; the 2003 Rolex Yachtsman of the year, Augie Diaz; and the 1992 USA Olympic silver medallist, Morgan Reeser.

Other internationally renowned sailors committed to coaching TeamPARADISE will soon be announced.