Local man overcomes paralyzing crash to become elite handcyclist

River Bank Run

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Steve Chapman is locked in when he’s riding his handcycle competitively. 

“In the zone,” Chapman said. “All-out effort to get to the finish line.”

Chapman will compete in the 25K handcycle race at the Amway River Bank Run on Saturday, Oct. 23.

The Hart-raised athlete got his start in adaptive sports after a dirt bike accident left him paralyzed at the age of 19. 

“How do you go from 6’4″ and playing basketball to now you’re in a wheelchair?” Chapman said.

He eventually tried wheelchair basketball and joined the Grand Rapids Pacers. 

“1987 we won a national championship,” Chapman said. 

He wasn’t limited to the hardwood. 

“I always say I’m a jack of all trades and master of none,” Chapman said. “I love to mono ski, downhill winter ski and water ski. I love snowmobiling.”

Had it not been for his son, Chapman might have never found a way to a handcycle. 

“When my son turned four and started riding his pedal bike, I had to figure out a way to ride with him to do something active with him and be out and about,” Chapman said. 

When he started 15 years ago, it was a recreational activity. Since then, handcycling has become a passion. 

“Up at four o’clock in the morning and on my bike at five,” Chapman said. “I practice 5:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Then I’m in the shower and then out the door for work.”

The Cedar Springs resident competes all over the United States. 

“We did three races in two days, that was the Tennessee Para Cycling Open,” Chapman said. “I was in Boston two weeks before that.”

He finished in second place at the Boston Marathon. He says it’s one of his most cherished accomplishments in handcycling. 

Chapman uses his story to inspire handcycling newcomers. 

“I can remember being in that second or third pack wishing someday I could be in that lead pack and now I’m usually in that lead pack and working with (the newcomers),” Chapman said. “Trying to encourage others that they’ll be there too.”

His passion for adaptive sports goes beyond his personal exercise time. 

Chapman is also a sales specialist for Top End, a company that manufactures adaptive sports handcycles and chairs. 

Saturday’s 25K handcycling race is scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m. 

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