A Woman in Constant Motion

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil – Jacqui Kapinowski didn’t spend too much time feeling disappointed about not making the top final in her arms and shoulders single sculls event at the 2016 Paralympic Games.

She was upset; that much was clear. “I wanted to be in the A final, and I am disappointed.” But Kapinowski, 53, is a women in constant motion, and she has too much coming up in the world of para sports.

So the only thing she could do is what she does best. Keep moving.

Kapinowski rowed in the B final on Sunday and won, finishing seventh overall.

“I had a rough day yesterday (in the repechage), and I just had to regroup and go out there today and give it everything I’ve got,” she said. “At the 300-meter mark, I got ahead and from there, I got myself in the lead for a strong finish.”

And now that rowing competition is over, instead of staying in Rio to relax and watch the other athletes she knows compete in various sports, she is going home to Tequesta, Fla., to race some more – this time in her wheelchair instead of a boat.

“I have gotten a lot of satisfaction from this,” said Kapinowski. “I’m here on the world stage, and I’m honored to represent my country. But I’m going home. I have a big ride, a century ride, coming up at the end of October. And then it’s on to marathon season.”

“I have gotten a lot of satisfaction from this,” said Kapinowski. “I’m here on the world stage, and I’m honored to represent my country.

That is the way Kapinowski has lived her life since she was twice stricken with spinal meningitis as young woman, the first time when she was 21 years old, the second time five years later when she was 26.

“It’s incredible that I survived it. It’s rare that people do, and I survived it twice,” she said. “The second time, I was in a comma for weeks and my parents had a priest come in and administer last rights.”

Before Kapinowski became disabled – a term she does not like to use – she was an elite runner and completed 19 marathons. It was second nature for her to start racing again when she became healthy enough.

She has competed in more than 60 wheelchair marathons and won two world championship bronze medals. She has competed, and won bronze on the U.S. Triathlon Team and competed in the 2010 winter Paralympic Games in curling.

As a rower, she qualified the women’s single at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, then gained her spot on the U.S. Paralympic Rowing Team by winning trials in April at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Fla.

Kapinowski is not sure where her Paralympic aspirations will take her next. “I really haven’t thought about it. I’ve been concentrating on this.”

But she is headed back home to Florida where she works for Achilles International, running disability programs throughout Florida and helping prepare other wheelchair athletes train for competition nationally.

“We buy hand cycles and the county puts them into storage for me. Any athlete can come down and train with my team, and I prepare them to get ready for marathon season. I have to get back home,” she said. “I’m a very, very busy woman.”

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