Riding with a Purpose
Friendly Wheels, Issue 68
With disability advocate Duncan Wyeth
For cyclist, Paralympian and disability advocate Duncan Wyeth, a bicycle has been vital to a happy and healthy life.
Wyeth, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, was held to the same standards as his siblings growing up. This decision from his parents has been a blessing to Wyeth, and has helped him reach heights many didn’t think were possible.
Not being able to keep up with his playmates was frustrating for Wyeth growing up, but everything changed when he received his first bike. Not only did the bike allow him to play with his friends, but it also positively affected his cerebral palsy. The constant repetition of peddling utilized and stretched his muscles, all while doing something he loved.
Wyeth’s love for cycling has led to some amazing adventures. After graduating from Michigan State University, Wyeth joined the Mid-Michigan Tri-County Bicycle Association, which led him to competing in his late 20’s. He then went on to compete in the 1981 Michigan Regional Cerebral Palsy Games, where he earned 14 gold medals. At the National Games the same year, Wyeth won two gold and another silver. At the 1982 World Cerebral Palsy Games, he brought home a bronze in cycling and silver in discus.
Six years later, Wyeth was presented with the opportunity to perform on an even bigger stage. The Paralympic Games were being held in Seoul, Korea, which also hosted the Summer Olympics a few months earlier. Wyeth earned a spot on the team and placed fifth out of 40 cyclists in the 30-kilometer road race. “From the 1988 games in Seoul, to the late 90’s, emergence and acceptance of Paralympic sports made such great strides,” Wyeth said. “It was an exciting time of growth and recognition for the sport that I was glad to be a part of.”
Throughout the years, Wyeth has continued to be recognized for his accomplishments on and off the bike. In 1988, he was named Male Athlete of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee. In 2000, the American Academy on Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine established the Duncan Wyeth award.
The award was created to honor individuals who contribute to the health of persons with disabilitiesthrough sports and recreation. Wyeth is a two-time inductee of the Michigan Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame for his efforts on the bike and the many years he devoted to promoting sports for people with disabilities.
In addition to the awards, Wyeth’s advocacy efforts for athletic participation in the disabled community have been published both locally and nationally. He recently retired as the executive director of the Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns, but still serves as an adjunct faculty member at Michigan State University, where he teaches a class titled “Disability in a Diverse Society.”
Throughout the years, Wyeth’s love for riding has not faded. Although he may not bike hundreds of miles like he used to, you can still see him out for a ride. “I do still enjoy biking, especially because it is a major asset to maintaining my mobility,” Wyeth said, “I was just at Mackinaw and enjoyed a bike around the island – I will go for a ride, rain or shine.”
From biking, competing internationally, teaching students or advocating for people with disabilities – Wyeth is someone who has inspired many and strived to make a positive impact on a daily basis.