Handcyclist competing in River Bank Run hopes to raise awareness

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to finish first in a race. For Steve Chapman, that hard work came with a mission, spreading awareness.

Chapman took first place last year in the Amway River Bank Run in the handcycle division. He has been racing competitively for more than 10 years and competed in his first race in downtown Grand Rapids.

“The River Bank Run was my very first race I ever did, and that’s what sparked the fire for me, for my racing,” Chapman said.

Nonprofit makes River Bank Run possible for everyone

When he was 19 years old, Chapman was in a motorcycle crash, and he became paralyzed from the chest down. He said his family and friends were very supportive, but finding adaptive sports through the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital changed his life.

“It wasn’t until I found adaptive sports about three years later that I really found my life accelerating and becoming better,” Chapman said.

From paralysis to 5K: GR woman shares recovery from rare condition

Since then, he hasn’t slowed down, competing in professional handcycle races like the River Bank Run and Boston Marathon and playing in other adaptive sports like basketball, skiing and tennis.

He also found another passion for teaching and guiding others. He is the coach of the Mary Free Bed Handcycling Team and is a long-time instructor for the Mary Free Bed Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp.

“I love being competitive, and I love being out there, but more so, I enjoy the new people that come and being able to teach them and show them what adaptive sports can do to help them,” Chapman said.

Grand Rapids River Bank runner inspires with cerebral palsy

He said he hopes to place first again this year but hopes what he’s accomplished so far will show everyone how capable individuals with physical disabilities can be.

“I hope they’re able to see more than just the wheelchair,” Chapman said. “I hope that they’re able to see individuals that can be competitive and that can do things that they may not realize they can do.”

You can see him take off in the River Bank Run handcycling race at 8:15 a.m. He is also cheering on his teammates from Mary Free Bed, who are training in Italy for the third UCI World Cup. Then, he will head to Kansas for a three-day cycling race.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to