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Oklahoma State University

Therapeutic Recreation Student Training for Paralympic Trials

Friday, February 12, 2016

Robbie Blevins, a senior recreational therapy major in the College of Education, is currently training for the 2016 Paralympic games. Blevins will attend the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Trials selection in Sarasota, Fla., on April 24, 2016. He is attempting to earn the single spot as the arms and shoulders rowing athlete for the Olympic/Paralympic Games to be held in September in Rio de Janeiro.

Blevins was paralyzed in a single-car accident when he was 16 years old. He came to OSU to play for the wheelchair basketball team and was discovered by a rowing coach through that sport.

“They put me on the water and I haven’t looked back since,” Blevins said. “I love doing things in water. Swimming had become a big part of my routine and being back on the water was life changing for me.”

Blevins still plays on a veteran’s wheelchair basketball team for cross training, but his heart is in rowing. Since beginning rowing in 2009, Blevins has never been beat in a competitive race.

“There is one spot on the team, and it’s between [Robbie] and a guy who is attempting to return. I have no doubt it’s between these two,” said Heidi Ventresca, Blevins’ coach. “Having trained people to this spot before, I’d say Robbie will make it.”

Ventresca’s confidence has been great support for Blevins, but his training regimen at OSU’s Colvin Center is what he believes will make the difference.

“The Colvin Center is my secret weapon,” Blevins said. “Whether it’s swimming for cardio or my recovery workout, I do all my erging on the rowing machine, all my weight training here, I utilize the performance studio and I use the mezzanine for cool down doing laps.”

His ‘home away from home’ provides the equipment and facilities for his training; however, his focus away from the Center will make his training complete.

“My body right now is completely science and performance based. I measure everything - how much sleep I’m getting, my calorie counts, macronutrients, heart rate, when I’m training and when I’m sleeping. I’m kind of obsessed about the whole sports and human performance thing right now,” Blevins said.

Blevins’ training schedule is of Olympic standards.

“It’s intense. I’m up at 7 a.m. to do cardio or a swimming session and then stretching. I prepare all my own meals and do my own supplementation. I eat five or six times a day and use a Fit Bit to help monitor my 4- to 5,000 calories a day intake because I'm burning 2- to 3,000 daily,” Blevins said. “In the afternoons I take a quick nap or make sure to relax for a few hours, then I do weight training in late afternoons or evening. I’m training seven days a week.”

And, this is the off-season.

“Right now I’m just on the water on Saturdays, weather permitting. From mid-February through March I’ll be going to Oklahoma City four days per week minimum. I’ll be rowing twice a day in March,” he said.

The boathouse district in Oklahoma City has been well known as an Olympic performance-training center. Until two years ago, they had no program, no adaptive equipment, and no coach for paralympians.  That all changed with a guest speaker at a fundraising event that brought an adaptive boat display.

“They have fully provided resources in the last two years and made this sport possible for me and the veterans rowing team,” Blevins said.

In his final semester of the therapeutic recreation undergraduate program, Blevins feels blessed to have a lot of flexibility and time in his schedule to focus on his training.

“I have just three classes this semester and only have to go to class twice a week. I’m afforded the luxury of recorded lectures and my other class is online," Blevins explained.

Holding a 3.75GPA, it is clear Blevins’ focus in life is where it needs to be.

“My OSU experience has been phenomenal. Training has been easy after the discipline I’ve learned from school,” he said.

Blevins is responsible for all his own expenses until he makes the Olympic team. If you’d like to contribute, visit gofundme.com/robbietorio.