For any 9 year old who completes a triathlon it’s a big deal. But for Cecilia Niemann it was an even greater success since she did it with her disabilities. Her whole family is filled with athletes and each has participated in many such events, but this was a first for Cecilia.
Cecilia participated in the CUP Shawnee Mission Triathlon held on July 14, 2013. And what was even more wonderful was the fact that it was a group effort. Her mom, Debbie, did the swim part (with Cecilia being towed for a third of a mile on a raft); Chad Milam – family friend – biked nine miles (pulling Cecilia in a Schwinn trailer) and then Wendy – the grandmother – pushed Cecilia for the 2.4-mile run. Throughout it all, Debbie was participating: the swim, bike and the run, since it was important to her to show everyone “there’s nothing wrong with Cecilia…she has special needs, but she’s not disabled.”
Being born 13 weeks premature at one pound 12 ounces made mom Debbie and grandfather John Halamiceck question whether she would make it or not. But, after three months of being in a neonatal intensive care unit, Cecilia – diagnosed as having cerebral palsy and severe brain damage – was discharged.
Despite all her disabilities Cecilia is described as “spunky” and able to have a laugh with her siblings who “adore their ‘sissy.’” She is also very popular at school and has a great sense of humor, like the time she held her breath to ignite the respiration monitor, just to get people running! She spends half her days in a regular class at Blue Valley School District (along with her sister) and the other half in special education.
Even though Debbie knows Cecilia can never run, swim, or bike, after she read about Team Hoyt – the father son team who has participated in many triathlons despite the son’s cerebral palsy – she was determined to do it with her daughter too. Debbie really didn’t want Cecilia to miss out on something the rest of the family enjoys so much. So they did it and the rest as they say, is history.