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Ladies demonstrate the iron will to win

Disabled woman and champion triathlete need help to accomplish Ironman dream
  • CHAMPION ATHLETE: Barbara Ann Bernard was named the Kona 2012 Ironman XC Executive Challenge Women’s ‘Athlete of the Year’.

  • TRAINING: Win Charles, 25, is shown training for a triathlon. She was born with cerebral palsy and severe scoliosis.

  • OLYMPIC TORCH: Win Charles was an Olympic torch bearer in 2002. PHOTOS COURTESY OF APRIL E. UNWIN

  • BOOK SIGNING: Win Charles is shown preparing for her book signing.

  • BIKE RIDE: Barbara Ann Bernard and Win Charles, also known as Team we Win, are shown during the bike ride of a triathlon.

  • RACING: Barbara Ann Bernard and her cousin Win Charles are shown competing during the run section of a triathlon. They are hopefuls for the Ironman World Championship this year.

Published: Jun 20, 2013

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On June 17, the final voting stage began for two strong and incredibly driven women who are determined to accomplish their dream.

They are hopefuls for the Ironman World Championships and to make it to Kona this year, they need the public’s help to win a Kona Inspired contest.

Win Charles, 25, born with cerebral palsy and severe scoliosis, and Barbara Ann Bernard, who is the 2012 Ironman XC Executive Challenge Women’s Athlete of the Year, call themselves Team we Win and with their motivation and perseverance to bring them across the finish line, they will. They have two more weeks to make their dream a reality.

The Kona Ironman is recognized as one of the toughest physical challenges in the world. Bernard aspires to swim the 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim pulling Charles in an inflatable boat, bike 112 miles around O’ahu, Hawaii, with Charles in a recumbent bike attached to hers, and then run the 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon pushing Charles in a wheelchair all in a single continuous event. The Kona Inspired program provides race entry for teams with inspirational stories, selected by a public vote.

Team we Win has already proven it has what it takes to compete in professional triathlons. On April 28, 2013, they completed the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in Florida, a high caliber Olympic course, in less than four hours which is an incredible feat for any athlete.

They are the first two women, one of whom is disabled, to attempt and finish this race. The same will apply to Ironman in Kona if they can make it there. However, accomplishing the near impossible is not the motivating factor for these two inspiring women. They are hoping to set an Ironman world record, and in the process, help raise funds and awareness for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Charles was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) shortly after her premature birth. CP is a brain injury that may be caused at birth due to a lack of oxygen. It can affect many parts of the body, and in Charles’ case, it affects mostly her muscle coordination and speech. Charles is no stranger to challenges. She may use a walker/wheelchair to help with her mobility, but that certainly hasn’t slowed her down. As Charles says, “Whatever you do, don’t stop! Keep seeking and keep trying, and you will emerge on the other side.”

The proof of her beliefs is in her incredible accomplishments to date. Charles has a successful business called Aspen Rose Arts, is a published writer with an autobiography called “I, Win”, a talented snowboarder and a teacher’s assistant. She also donates much of her remaining time to charities for people with disabilities. All of the challenges she has faced seemed insurmountable at the time, but the lessons she has learned being a survivor and always moving forward are the lessons that will bring her and Bernard to the finish line at the Ironman World Championships 2013. She is also in the process of authoring a second book.

Bernard is Charles’ cousin and one of her closest friends. She has been doing triathlons for two years and most recently, she placed first in the Ironman XC Executive Challenge at the Ironman World Championships 2012 in Kona, which she qualified for at Ironman Coeur d'Alene. In 2011, she founded a triathlon in Nassau, The Bahamas called UWC Triathlon Bahamas, which seeks to raise scholarship funds for Bahamian students to study abroad at United World Colleges. Bernard, a hedge fund analyst, approached Charles with the idea of doing triathlons together as a team in January.

They have both been tirelessly planning and training ever since. With Bernard in New Providence and Charles in Aspen, distance could have proven to be a struggle, but it hasn’t. Bernard supports Charles with regular calls and e-mails to give encouragement and advice on training. This team is already winning.

Charles said that fear is a disability for many people. Team we Win will face challenges that intimidate the highest level athletes, but Bernard and Charles will not let fear get in their way as they demonstrate that anything is possible. This incredible project has already yielded life-changing confidence and independence for Charles, inspired numerous “handi-capable” children, and raised awareness for cerebral palsy.

The public is asked to help these cousins set an Ironman world record by watching, voting for, sharing and tweeting their inspirational 90 second video. It is a story about true love and determination: http://konainspired.thismoment.com/?x=us-en_kona_805_.

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