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Army veteran hopes adaptive training will help her earn another US parabobsled team berth

AMERICAN LEGION/YOUTUBE

By ERNIE CLARK | Bangor Daily News, Maine | Published: April 23, 2021

BANGOR, Maine (Tribune News Service) — Tammy Landeen is back home in Aroostook County this week, working out at the gym or hand-cycling outside — weather permitting — with an eye toward rejoining Team USA next winter on the World Cup parabobsled circuit.

The 44-year-old Caribou resident expects to be even better prepared for that competition than she was for her debut in international bobsledding two years ago, thanks to an intensive, 10-day training camp she recently completed with the Adaptive Training Foundation near Dallas.

"I've been calling it a boot camp," said Landeen, a retired Army sergeant. "It's a really intense training. Physical, mental, they're covering all of the aspects."

ATF is a nonprofit adaptive therapy organization founded in 2014 by former National Football League player David Vobora to help people with life-altering injuries bridge the gap from basic functional rehabilitation to adapted sports.

"We train wounded veterans and others with traumatic disabilities just to help them redefine their lives post-traumatic injury, and we do this mainly through exercise and building a community of support around them," ATF director of marketing Colin Anderson said.

The ATF's 10-day "hyper" camp and nine-week "redefine" program are funded through donations and offered to participating athletes free of charge.

The camp Landeen attended featured physical and mental training along with meditative breathing exercises to get the athlete's mind and body on the same page.

"We're giving them small tools to take back home with them to continue and accelerate their training progress as they get ready for their competition seasons," Anderson said. "We focus on strength development, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and mobility so she can maximize her sleep, nutrition and recovery along with that training. We also work on the mental and psychosocial aspects, knowing that's the greatest asset toward one's potential."

Landeen said the experience, the caliber of coaching which she had not experienced previously, will improve her personal training regimen back in Maine.

"With my body being already broken, it's so important to know how to do things correctly so I don't damage myself even more," said the 5-foot-3, 145-pound Landeen. "What works for an able-bodied person may not work for me, so the skills and techniques they're teaching me here are going to be so valuable when I'm home and I get to the UMPI [University of Maine at Presque Isle] gym to work out or am just doing band work in my living room.

Landeen, who was born in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, lived her formative years in Fort Fairfield. She spent 10 years in the Army with stops including Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.

She lost the use of a foot during a training exercise, and subsequently suffered a spinal cord injury while horseback riding 16 years ago that left her unable to use her legs.

The setbacks haven't dulled her appetite for competition. Landeen has participated in events ranging from wheelchair games and triathlons to hand-cycling, but "really at a more than recreational but less than professional level," she said.

More recently she has turned to parabobsledding, a winter sport involving athletes making timed runs down narrow and twisting ice tracks in a gravity-powered sled at speeds that can approach 70 mph. Landeen competes in a single-person bobsled, or monobob, serving both as driver and brakeperson.

"Because we can't run, we get set in the sled and then at the start there's a mechanical arm that pushes everybody at the same velocity so winning and losing comes down to your driving skill on the track," Landeen said.

After attending a pilot camp in Norway, Landeen earned her first berth on the U.S. parabobsled team for the 2019-20 season. She competed at World Cup stops in Norway, Germany and Switzerland as well as in Lake Placid, New York, and Park City, Utah.

She finished as the top American woman and 13th overall in the World Cup monobob at Oberhof, Germany.

Last winter's World Cup schedule was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Landeen now is gearing up to compete for a spot on the 2021-22 U.S. team.

Team selection races are scheduled for November, with the final squad to consist of three women and three men. The World Cup season then follows, running until mid-March.

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Landeen had hoped to eventually represent her country in the Paralympic Games, but now is unsure she'll have that chance.

The monobob will debut for able-bodied athletes at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, but the same event was not approved for inclusion in the 2026 Winter Paralympics in Cortina, Italy. The International Paralympic Committee ruled in January that the minimum criteria for the number of countries participating in the sport regularly had not been met.

Thus, the monobob won't be included in the Winter Paralympics until at least 2030.

"That's a long time," Landeen said. "I was very disappointed when we found out that we weren't going to be able to qualify for 2026. In another nine years I'm going to be 53, and I can probably think of better things to do with my time at that point."

That obstacle is compounded by the cost of participating in the sport internationally.

"It's expensive, and we don't have sponsors like able-bodied people do," Landeen said. "We have to raise our own funds, and to fly from Presque Isle to Norway is not cheap."

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