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Susannah Scaroni

A Few Minutes With Susannah Scaroni

College of Applied Health Sciences media relations specialist Vince Lara speaks with two-time Paralympian Susannah Scaroni, who is training at Illinois for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

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VINCE LARA: Hello, this is Vince Lara in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois. Today I spend a few minutes with Susannah Scaroni, two-time Paralympian who's looking for her third trip to the games in 2020 in Tokyo.

Well I'm speaking with Susannah Scaroni, who is a 2020 Paralympian hopeful, we'll say--


VINCE LARA: --if that sounds right to you.


VINCE LARA: And you also competed in 2016 in Rio, so this will be your second games.


VINCE LARA: Wow, so this will be your third.

SUSANNAH SCARONI: Hopefully will be the third.

VINCE LARA: Hopefully it will be the third for you.


VINCE LARA: Well, let's talk about where you got your start in racing.

SUSANNAH SCARONI: Well, I grew up in a little tiny farming community in eastern Washington. And I was fortunate enough to be close to Spokane, Washington, just about an hour away. But there's an adaptive sports program for youth there. So I learned about it through Shriners Hospital and immediately fell in love with it.

So I started out on the ParaSport Spokane team. And when you're in that world of adaptive sports, you learn about the University of Illinois. They have been just such a powerhouse with wheelchair athletes for decades. So I applied to come here, and here I am. And I love it.

VINCE LARA: Yeah, that was going to be my next question is that you're from the Pacific Northwest, and you ended up here. So obviously coach Bleakney's reputation preceded him, and that was part of why you decided to come here.

SUSANNAH SCARONI: Absolutely. Yeah. So I went to school a couple years in Montana before I came here, just based on financial reasons. But the second year I was there, coach Adam, he gave me a call and was like, hey, I don't know-- are you still interested in coming?

Because we have this other funding opportunity now. And so I was. After even two years of training on my own and doing my own thing, I still loved racing. I had my racing chair out there with me and decided to transfer over in 2011.

VINCE LARA: That's amazing. Now, we talked about you were in 2012 and 2016. So let's say you're one of the veterans on the team. Because a team, you have people as young as 19.

SUSANNAH SCARONI: Right, exactly.

VINCE LARA: So do your teammates come to you for advice, and is that mentor role something you like?

SUSANNAH SCARONI: Yes and yes, and especially more recently I've been realizing more and more that we have new waves of freshmen coming in, and I'm in my third year of grad school now. And just being able to be this wealth of knowledge for a whole host of reasons, whether it's living independently at college, whether it's navigating accessible areas on campus, or I'm really passionate about nutrition. So there are some questions about nutrition and training and not doing certain things downstairs, like being tiny. All of these experiences are things I love to share with the new athletes that come in.

VINCE LARA: Now, this being potentially your third, do you look ahead to 2024 already? Or are you saying to yourself, this might be my last one? Especially when you are in school.

SUSANNAH SCARONI: That's a good segue into that question because I have thought about this. But one thing I also really love in my career is the role model aspect of it. So right now we're at a really cool part of wheelchair marathon awareness because Abbott World Major Series has a wheelchair division now. And I can still foresee myself continuing to push that wave of women wheelchair racers while the next group gets up to that point.

But it kind of sort of depends on where that is. There's a lot of women I race with that are all within the same age. And so I wouldn't want us all to stop at one time, and then all that really hard work just kind of go down a little bit. So I might see how it goes, see where the rest of the world is and the rest of the US females, and keep racing. I'm also not entirely sure yet.

VINCE LARA: OK. Well, what are your plans-- well you just talked a little bit about your plans. You're training to become a registered dietitian here at Illinois.


VINCE LARA: And so what's after sport?

SUSANNAH SCARONI: Yeah, well, that's a great question. The way I sort of foresee my career goals, I would love to be a sports dietitian with US Paralympics. I think it's great to-- nutrition is a basic field. But when you can apply it and adapt it to para athletes, I think having been one will add a really nice element to the advice I can give in the future. So I want to just try it out and see what it's like being a sports dietitian.

And I haven't completely thrown out the possibility of continuing research. There's a lot of things that need to be studied in para athletes still. So I've really enjoyed sports physiology as well as nutrition science in my grad school program so far. So I think I could see that being a possible future thing to do as well. Yeah.

VINCE LARA: My thanks to Susannah Scaroni. This has been A Few Minutes With.

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