Wisconsin Paralympic Sailor Prepares for the 2013 U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship
Milwaukee’s award-winning Community Sailing Center (MCSC) is set to take on a new challenge this September when they host the 2013 U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship on Lake Michigan for the first time. MCSC provides meaningful programs to experience Lake Michigan tailored to meet the needs and interests of a diverse population – adults, youths and persons with disabilities— focusing on innovative and character-building learning experiences.
Athletes from all over the U.S. will travel to Brew City, including Wisconsin’s own John Ruf, a 2008 Paralympic bronze medalist. A Greater Milwaukee native, Ruf welcomes the tournament to his hometown this September 5 – 8 with hopes of showing competitors all that Milwaukee has to offer as a national sailing venue.
Ruf is a fifth-generation sailor who began the sport at age nine, learning from both his mother and grandfather on Pewaukee Lake. While Ruf began sailing, he also dealt with a spine tumor throughout his childhood that hindered his ability to walk. In 1998, Ruf suffered a paralyzing injury in a car accident, and a wheelchair became his new mode of transportation.
While he continued to sail through his physical challenges, Ruf believed the competitive world of sailing was no longer within his reach. That was until he saw an article in a sailing publication.
“I came across a description of a 2.4mR (a one-person keelboat) and how it would be a class for disabled sailing in the Paralympic Games,” said Ruf. When he realized he could compete at that level of sailing his goal became the Paralympic podium. He explained, “There might be a ramp to the podium, but the road to it is exactly the same.”
In 2000, Ruf competed in his first Paralympic Trials and took third place. He continued to train and competed in the 2004 Paralympic Trials, but again took third. After putting in over 10,000 hours of training, Ruf won the 2007 Paralympic Trials, qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he went on to win the bronze medal. According to Ruf his most meaningful memory from the games was “the magnitude of the event and the responsibility of representing his country.”
Following the Paralympics, Ruf went on to prove he was the best 2.4mR sailor in the world when he won the Open World Championship in 2009. This tournament wasn’t just against other disabled sailors, but included able-bodied sailors as well. Since the 2.4mR is an able-bodied boat and this competition was open, Ruf considers this his most meaningful accomplishment.
When he’s not sailing, Ruf is the Managing Director of Drill Floor International. However, at the time of his two biggest sailing accomplishments he was an attorney, vice president and compliance officer at the investment advisory firm of Robert W. Baird.
“Without Baird’s support I would not have been able to accomplish my two most ambitious sailing goals- making it to the podium at the 2008 summer games and being an Open World Champion in my class, the 2.4 mR,” said Ruf.
This September, the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship is coming to Milwaukee, and Ruf is excited for the opportunity to share the amazing place he calls home with his fellow sailors. He hopes this competition will create new opportunities for the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center.
“Once we show what we can do, it can hopefully lead to an Open World Championship, making Milwaukee a more important sailing venue moving forward,” said Ruf. Previous locations of the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship include San Diego, CA in 2012, Larchmont, NY in 2011 and St. Petersburg, FL in 2010.
The four-day event will include a racing clinic on Thursday, with races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. An awards ceremony will be held on Sunday evening.
The MCSC welcomes this event and will be partnering with Milwaukee County Parks Department, Milwaukee County Executive’s Office for Persons with Disabilities, South Shore Yacht Club, Milwaukee Yacht Club, Harken Yacht Fittings, Milwaukee Chapter – Great Lakes Sports Fishermen, VISIT Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
About the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center (MCSC)
MCSC provides meaningful programs to experience Lake Michigan sailing that engage all members of the community regardless of their age, cultural or racial background, or financial ability. Programs are tailored to meet the needs and interests of a diverse population – adults, youths and persons with disabilities, with a focus on innovative and character-building learning experiences. Participants discover hidden abilities to broaden their life skills and self-development including self-reliance, teamwork, problem-solving and leadership skills.
For further information, please contact Gina Smith, 414.224.9424, Gina@ebadvertising.com at 773-9531 or visit SailingCenter.org or call (414) 277-9094