Mo Lahna honours paratriathlons advocate Alan Shanken | Gold Medal Entourage
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Mo Lahna honours paratriathlons advocate Alan Shanken | Gold Medal Entourage


Without Alan Shanken, things would be more
complicated because he does his best
to keep me away from all the problems that could
prevent me from achieving
my athletic dream. He was always there to make my career go as
smoothly as possible. Mohamed would have been at the Paralympics
with or without me. But I always thought my
goal was to make his life a little bit easier
as he got there. I met Mohamed Lahna
five years ago. We were on a relay team at the
Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. He was a swimmer and
I was the cyclist. When I first came to
the United States, I came to the Bay Area,
California. I was looking for a group
of disabled people to train with,
and so I met Alan Shanken, a member at the
Challenged Athletes Foundation who lives in San Francisco. The CAF is the
Challenged Athletes Foundation and it’s a group that helps
people with physical challenges get involved in sports. I’ve been involved in the
organisation since 2006 and, since I found them,
I became very involved as both an athlete and as a… actually now
I’m on the national board. So I’m really intimately
involved in a lot of different aspects of the organisation. All my family is in Morocco and Alan is like a big brother
to me here. He’s always there for me
whenever I need him. I see my role,
if you can call it that, it’s just to connect the dots. I just made sure that
Mohamed knew that we could be helpful,
that I could be helpful, that the community in
northern California could be helpful,
that he doesn’t have to go down this path alone. When I decided to participate
in the Paralympics I wanted to do things right
so I wanted a top-notch coach. I heard about
Matt Dixon in San Francisco he was one of the best coaches
in the world and has worked with many
professional athletes so I asked Alan Shanken
to help me get him as a coach and because of Alan Shanken
I was lucky to meet Matt Dixon. Alan Shanken’s
a great part of our community in San Francisco and Alan
was actually fundamental in introducing Mo to me. I met Mo a couple of years
ago now and actually it was at a charity event for the
Challenged Athletes Foundation and I was leading
an indoor cycling class. And straightaway I actually saw
that he had great gumption, I would say. He loved the class
in the session, which was a long duration
indoor cycling class, I think four and a half hours. And that was really the
start of our relationship. I think that was
a game changer. Mohamed has gone on to succeed beyond what he knew was
possible and Matt got to really
understand what goes on
both physically and mentally for a physically challenged
athlete. (PARATRIATHLON DEBUT, RIO 2016) Alan Shanken had a disability
growing up but didn’t have the resources
to help him play sports. I was born, for the most part,
missing my lower right leg. And the reason the organisation
has become so dear to me is that this is an organisation
that clearly my folks and of course I
would have benefited from if it would have been around
in the ’60s or the ’70s. There were no organisations
to help him. Then he found out about CAF,
which changed his life and enabled him to run
and do triathlons, so he wanted to
provide all challenged athletes with this information so they could get
the organisation’s help. So what do your kids
think of this? I mean, you know… Do they know
you’re a superstar? I’m not superstar. Mo is a very humble guy. He was five years ago
and he is today. He does not like
to ask for anything. And we have to convince him he’s got support around him,
he’s got a team around him. So after almost every time
I speak to him, after the initial hug
and handshake and niceties, it’s like, Mohamed,
what can we do for you? Alan is important because he helped me
whenever I needed him. When I came to
the United States, he helped me through
the immigration process, which was very important because it’s a long
and complicated process. He’s also helped
with my training. When I needed a bike
for a race, I had a small budget but he
helped me find a good bike. He also helped me join a gym and always tried to
facilitate things for me. He’s a mentor. He actually helps Mo
on the journey from an emotional standpoint,
making smart decisions. And the final thing is that
he’s a great promoter as well. Everybody knows Mo. He’s got great spirit. He works incredibly hard and he’s got a fantastic
personality and smile that goes beyond it.
But, right next to him, his biggest cheerleader
is Alan and that’s a fantastic tool
in the tool box to have. We have this natural chemistry. We’ll grab our bikes
and go for a ride together. Occasionally
go for a run together. We’ll see each other
at a race together. We’ve had similar challenges
our entire life. Bottom line is, he’s the type
of guy you just want to help. And we also know that there’s a pay-it-forward
concept here, right? So we’re going to help him and
he’s going to bring it forward to the next person
who needs it. And we know that
he’s such a genuine guy he’ll clearly do that for, really,
the remainder of his life.

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