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Athletes conquer their challenges

3:02 PM, Feb 15, 2014   |    comments
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BOULDER - A filmmaker from Boulder will debut a movie this weekend with a purpose as inspiring as its tropical back drop. 

It's called "The Current." It is the latest project for MakeAHero.org. 

The cast includes paralympians and elite athletes and veterans who face physical odds.  With them in the Bahamas for filming, Missy Franklin, a five-time Olympic medalist.

The ocean that gently whispers to the island of Bimini also has a force and reach difficult to measure.

It can sustain life and challenge it. It is all guided by the power of the current.

Anthony Robles is a NCAA champion wrestler who was born with one leg.

 "I've never experienced the ocean before."  Growing up people assumed there was a lot he could not do.  He has always fought to prove them wrong.  Being a competitive wrestler was one example.  Scuba diving is another. 

A clear sky and calm water off the shore  was a spectacular introduction to open water diving for Robles and his diving partners.  

"It's my first dive with Missy and Anthony." Mallory Weggemann was excited.  She is a gold medal paralympic swimmer with team USA.  She was paralyzed from the waist down during high school after a medical mistake.    

Mallory dove into the water with five-time Olympic medalist, Missy Franklin.   Franklin is the able-bodied athlete ambassador for the project.

Franklin asked Robles, "Is it too tight on your neck?"  They adjusted their dive gear as they prepared for a dive that would change all of their lives." 

Robles said, "Myself born without a leg, trying to figure this whole scuba diving thing out is interesting."  He worked to figure out the best way to guide himself under the water with one leg to kick.  "I'll just have to really use my arms more."  He said.

They are part of the cast for a movie with a goal of inspiring anyone who faces adversity in their lives.

A team of photographers was on the boat with the athletes to document their adventure.

They are gathering footage for a documentary called "The Current."  It is a labor of love for Kurt Miller, a film maker in Boulder, Colorado.  

"The Current is exploring the healing powers of the ocean," he said.

"See you on the bottom."  Franklin smiled. "It is so beautiful and alive down there."

In the movement of the ocean, Weggemann says she feels no limitations.  Her legs felt light and she could move freely in the weightlessness of the ocean. 

"I'm not confined to four wheels, I can just be free." She said.  "It is incredible to feel the movement of the water." 

It is the powerful transformation Miller captures in the movie. "We are showing what is available on the water for people with disabilities.  

"Their challenges, what they've overcome, what they've had a chance to do and what they are doing, it is inspiring."

The movie filmed in a number of locations.  In Mexico, an Army veteran from Colorado was part of the experience too.  Jesse Murphree was awarded the bronze star and the Purple Heart for his courage in Afghanistan.  For him, scuba diving broke another barrier in his mind.

"I didn't want to do the things I used to do because it reminded me I couldn't do it the same way anymore," he said.  "Then I met the great people from Make A Hero."

Overcoming isn't just about physical barriers.  It is about mindsets and fears too.

Robles said, "I jump in and there are 6 sharks underneath us.  I'm freaking out."  He has been scared of sharks as long as he can remember.  "It was really overcoming one of my biggest fears: sharks in the ocean."

"I felt as we started to trust them they started to trust us." Franklin added.  "It was amazing to see the calm that came around us all." 

Robles said, "To have a shark go three feet over my head, I could have touched it and I felt calm about it". 

His dive instructor Shane, from A1 Scuba said, "He showed a lot of courage"

There was so much excitement and energy when the group of athletes got back on the boat.  

"They inspire me so much." Franklin said, "It was so cool being down there the tree of us."  Weggemann said, "That was an unbelievable experience." 

Three young athletes with such different stories, but all lives impacted and changed by the reach of the water. 

Robles said, "What I have learned along my journey is you can't let the challenge be the excuse."  

Miller hopes his film will bring change for others too, when they see the depth of the experience documented on the big screen.

Robles does too.

"I'm just hoping it will touch and inspire someone back home." Robles said.  "I hope it pushes them to accomplish something they don't think is possible or challenge them to work hard at something they need to overcome.

Missy Franklin and many of the other athletes who volunteered their time to be part of the non-profit documentary will be at the world premiere in Boulder on Sunday.

She will come home to Colorado, from college at the University of California for the event.

You can learn more about the efforts to bring adaptive sports to people with disabilities at http://www.makeahero.org/


READ: Colorado Veteran calls Afghanistan a forgotten war

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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