Ben Foos Surprised Himself At The IWAS World Games
by Lela Moore
Ben Foos throws shot put at the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Team Trials in 2021. (Photo: Mark Reis)
Ben Foos does not enter competitions with specific distance goals for his shot put or discus throws.
"It's very easy to get down on yourself," he said about not meeting distance goals. "And you can't PR every single meet."
Instead, his coaches have trained him to focus on his technical positions with each throw.
At the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games, held Nov. 23-29 in Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal, Foos prepared with those technical goals in mind.
He left Portugal with two American records. Foos threw 8.74 meters in the shot put, and 19.46 meters in the discus, both in the F40 classification.
It was his first international meet for the Pleasanton, California, native, and Foos said that he and the rest of the American team, which traveled to the competition through Move United, were “really well-supported” in terms of both food and lodging as well as medical support. Three staff members who accompanied the American athletes were solely there to provide medical support, including physical and occupational therapy.
Josh Jablon is a throwing coach who traveled with the American delegation to the World Games. He said the whole event felt “laid back,” an advantage for athletes unaccustomed to the hustle and bustle and the new procedures at international competitions.
“If that’s your first experience, you’ll remember it fondly,” Jablon said.
The World Games allows athletes to try out certain disciplines they haven’t tried before because they aren’t official Paralympic events.
“You’re still going to be able to compete and have fun and do the best you can,” Jablon said. “It’s just not going to get you to the Paralympics.”
Foos, for example, had not thrown the discus in over a year. But he wanted to try it for the event.
“And he ended up doing really well, obviously, setting an American record,” Jablon said. “And to see his excitement just explode after his event was pretty great … (he) lit up like a Christmas tree.”
Foos also traveled with his own coach from ParaSport Spokane, David Greig, who served as one of the head coaches for the Americans at the World Games. Foos said he appreciated having Greig on site so he could speak with him directly about his expectations and goals for the competition.
“We didn’t have to worry about anything except our own competing schedule,” Foos said.
They were allowed to practice in the competition facility on several occasions, which is not always a given at international meets.
Foos has trained shot put, his primary event, for four years, but changed his throwing technique in the last two years since recovering from a back injury.
“The last year and a half has been really great in terms of being able to train at full capacity without that back injury,” Foos said.
The new strategy has seemed to pay off. Foos attributes much of his success at the World Games to the celebratory atmosphere of the event.
“Even if I hadn’t PR’d, I would have been completely happy with the experience,” he said.
Foos has dwarfism, and he said that at most meets he only competes against one or two other athletes in his class.
“I’m rarely in a full heat of competitors like me,” he said.
Foos was pleased with the camaraderie with his international competitors; he ended up befriending athletes from Ecuador and South Africa while competing in Portugal.
“Seeing all these different cultures and how they interacted with each other, and their kindness towards us (was a great experience),” he said.
Foos said that he plans to remain in Spokane, away from his family in Seattle, to train with ParaSport Spokane coaches.
He has an eye on the world championships next summer with the Paralympic Games Paris 2024 not far off in the distance.
“I’m just excited to compete more in the spring and see where that takes me,” Foos said.