Paralympian is the one for Azzam
ABU DHABI- A double leg amputee has been drafted into Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – Abu Dhabi’s Volvo Ocean Race competing team – to help take on the historic Artemis Challenge sailing race at Cowes Week in the UK this August 7.
Keith Burhans, a 58-year-old paralympian from the USA,had both his legs amputated in 1995 after he was run over by a boat, but the determined sailor received prosthetic limbs just two months after the tragic accident, got back on the water, and even went on to represent the USA at the Sydney 2000 Games. And now, thanks to an ADOR Facebook competition, the native New Yorker has been named the ‘One4Azzam’, winning a place on the deck of ADOR’s sleek ‘Azzam’ 65 yacht for the key August test – the first competitive outing for the new Volvo Ocean 65 Azzam and her revamped ADOR crew.
“I am extremely excited to have been chosen as the ‘One4Azzam’, and I’m eager to have the opportunity to demonstrate what a paralympian sailor can do with a pro-team,” said Burhans, who beat more than 400 other entrants to the honour. “I’ll be doing this for all my paralympian brothers out there.
“I’m excited for the invitation, especially as a disabled person. There are almost no opportunities for a disabled person to join a team like this so this opportunity may be a chip in that glass ceiling.”
Burhans, who managed to save the lives of his two daughters, Kristen and Allison, in the same accident that cost him his legs, also coached the Greeks in the Athens 2004 Games and is currently Past Commodore of Rochester Yacht Club in New York. Now he will take his very special set of sea legs aboard Azzam alongside skipper Ian Walker and the rest of the ADOR crew for a day as they take on the Artemis Challenge – one of the highlights of the world-famous Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes regatta and a crucial part of the team’s development and training for the Volvo Ocean Race, which starts in October.
“I went to Newport last week and met Ian Walker and some others from the Azzam team on the dock. Getting the chance to sail with them is a dream come true – a real bucket-list kind of opportunity. I’m definitely looking forward to playing with the pros on Azzam,” enthused Burhans.
“I’ve followed Ian’s successes over the years while it was fabulous to meet young Adil Khalid, the Emirati sailor who looks like he’s got a huge future ahead of him.”
Keith, who heads a specialty advertising company, won the competition by registering 1,925 votes on ADOR’s Facebook site when he presented his case of why he should be the ‘One4Azzam’– 161 votes ahead of his nearest rival.
“It was amazing to see such interest from sailing enthusiasts around the globe and we are truly honoured that they decided to share their stories with us. There were many worthy candidates and in Keith we have a winner whose determination reflects the entire Azzam spirit,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Director, Events Bureau, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), which is behind ADOR’s Volvo Ocean Race campaign.
Ian Walker says the whole ADOR team is in awe of Keith’s courage and fortitude and is gearing up to give him the warmest of Arabian welcomes in Cowes.
“Azzam is the Arabic for determination so Keith is coming home when he boards this yacht,” he said. “He’s going to be very much part of a team determined to win and a victory in Cowes would surely round off the ADOR experience for such a worthy winner.”
Keith and his wife Susanne are now packing for their 3,329 mile journey from New York to the Isle of Wight for the Cowes date.
“I rate the ADOR team chances very highly in Artemis and also in the Volvo Ocean Race, which I follow avidly – I watched it all the way through last time,” said Keith. ‘Now with one design yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race there’s good competition out there, it’s all down to the crew and Ian Walker has a great experience.”