World Para Powerlifting Championship

Posted by Garrison Redd in Life After Paralysis on February 07, 2022 # Adaptive Sports

Garrison Redd at the World ChampionshipAs an athlete living with any type of disability, it can be quite cumbersome to travel to and from events. With items such as your medical necessities (catheters, enemeez, and many other medications etc.). Along with having to travel on flights which can be 10 hours or more. I am a world-class-para powerlifter currently on team USA. In my years of competing and traveling to competitions, I have had many experiences traveling as a wheelchair user. Some of my experiences were positive, some negative but most of all, I can share with everyone what it is like to travel independently.

My most recent competition took place in Tbilisi, Georgia, located in Eastern Europe near Russia. I arrived at the airport approximately 3 hours prior to leaving. I won’t disclose some of the negative experiences or the airline due to some of the issues, which are currently in litigation. However, at check-in, I informed the representative that I was checking my wheelchair and needed it at the gate of my connecting flight, along with assistance at the gate.

Whether I am by myself or flying with a companion, I like to request assistance since I am entitled to it. When you are a manual wheelchair user, an issue that can arise is the people assisting you to the gate do not want to hold your bags or push you in your chair. In my case, it is always a debate in which they eventually give in and hold my bags for me, but it is always a fight.

After I made it through security which can be quite an ordeal because it always seems like male assistance is never around, or they do not hear the call because it sounds like a whisper amongst all the individuals trying to get through the medical detectors. I finally made it to my gate with an hour to spare. I was able to hang out with some of my teammates and coaches before boarding my flight.

Garrison lifting during the competitionOnce it was time to board, I requested an aisle chair to help me to my seat. Typically, the aisle chair has straps and other attachments to secure your limbs properly. This particular airline was only able to offer an aisle chair that didn’t have any straps and asked if I could keep my legs closed as we moved towards my seat. Talk about a red flag! I arrived at my seat in which I always ask for the aisle seat, especially on long flights. It is important because it would be difficult for me to enter the restroom. My first flight was 16 hours, and being that I self-cath, I packed a bag with multiple cath kits, plastic bags, and a large blanket. The reason was I found iit easier to cath in my seat than having the hassle of entering the restroom.

As a world-class athlete, I have to drink an adequate amount of water and eat a certain amount of calories in order to perform at an optimal level. This can be very difficult on long flights because you do not want to drink or consume too much. Therefore, I typically try to drink water sparingly, and I only eat foods that I am accustomed to.

Going can be a little more difficult because it is prior to a competition. Depending on my weight, I have to consider what I am eating and drinking as well. Throughout the flight, I would sip on a couple of oz of water at a time so that way I wouldn’t have any sudden urges to void. For food, I mainly ate rice. I knew that the carbohydrates would be able to hold me over until I arrived at my destination, and I could have a better selection of foods.

Another suggestion I would make to anyone traveling and requiring a wheelchair is to try and get a seat as close to the front as possible, especially on long flights. So, with that suggestion depending on the aircraft, if you can get extra legroom, that is very important. I am an individual that has increased spasticity depending on the surface or cushion I am sitting on. So, I always request a row where the middle seat is open to stretch and contour my body in different positions to be comfortable.

Once I arrived in Doha, I had approximately 30 minutes to make it to my connecting flight. This can also be difficult in traveling through foreign countries because of the language barrier that exists. We were able to make it to our connecting flight with the help from the staff notifying the pilot not to take off.

Garrison Redd during round 1 at the championshipOnce I arrived in Tbilisi, my chair wasn’t at the gate. Apparently, it was left in Doha. I was escorted in a rental chair from the airport in which they took back once I boarded my transportation to the team hotel. Eventually, my personal chair arrived after being without for the day.

As for the competition, when you are competing at the highest level, there is a lot of downtime in the days leading up to the actual event. Due to COVID, we were in a bubble where none of the athletes were allowed to leave. We were also subjected to covid COVID testing every third day. Every athlete, including myself, was required to stay at a minimum of 10 days, depending on when you were competing.

We were able to eat with our teammates and other countries during meal times 3 times a day. The food selection was decent, and the hotel was very accommodating. My room wasn’t an accessible room, but it was very comfortable, considering what I am accustomed to when it comes to room accessibility.

As for me, I finished fourth in my flight which was pretty good considering I was the lightest competitor in my weight class. However, the experience, all in all, was amazing besides all the mishaps that took place with the flight going. The flight going back, I am going to save for another blog. However, I hope this is a helpful roadblock on what to expect if you are traveling and require a wheelchair, whether you are an athlete or just looking to see new horizons.

Please connect with me on social media Instagram @Garrisonredd, Facebook @Garrison Redd for helpful tips.

My name is Garrison Redd. I am a T-12 paraplegic born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I am searchable under Garrison Redd on Youtube or @GarrisonRedd on Instagram and Facebook. As well as you can visit my website thegarrisonreddproject.org and you can send me a message on Reeve Connect Garrison Redd or email. I hope everybody stays safe and strong.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.