ORLANDO, Fl. -- The last time we spoke with Mike Varro was in August (see previous post below) as he was gearing up for the World Rowing Championships.
"After being selected for the National Team for rowing, Mike and his team went to the World Rowing Championship and won the Silver Medal," said Mike's wife Lori Varro in a recent communication with DrydenWire.com. "The team was also recently named the "Team of the Month" by US Rowing."
Mike's team is continuing their training for the next opportunity at Gold, however, Lori says that Mike is in need of support.
"Now that Mike and his team have received a medal and are continuing training, we are looking for either donations or sponsorships to support the cost of travel, training, and equipment expenses.
"Most of the members of his team are going to be racing in the Head of the Charles in Boston, MA this weekend and then racing in the Head of the South in Augusta, GA in November. Unfortunately, there is no funding for non-Olympic events, so any race he wants to compete in is an out of pocket expense."
Mike, who had a below-the-knee amputation of his right leg at the tender age of 11, is a Spooner High School Graduate and is continuing his training as he is now on the team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan, but Lori concluded that he does "need to maintain his spot in the boat."
Lori says that sponsors can anticipate Mike making public appearances, wearing their company gear when training in competition for non-Olympic events, and social media posts to make sure to get pictures of Mike using a product or wearing any sponsorship "gear".
If you would like to donate or support Mike, you may do so via his GoFundMe Page.
Spooner Graduate Selected to US Rowing Team; Eyes 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 | by Ben Dryden
ORLANDO, Fl. -- A Spooner High School Graduate is 1 of 5 individuals who will be representing the United States at the 2017 World Rowing Championships held in Sarasota, FL September 23 through October 1.
Mike Varro, formerly of Spooner, WI, will be competing in the PR3 Mixed Four with Coxswain at the 2017 World Championships along with Jenny Sichel (New Jersey), Danielle Hansen (California), Zachary Burns (Michigan), and Jaclyn Smith (New York). Sichel, Hansen, Burns, and Smith are all returning members of the 2016 Paralympic Team.
DrydenWire: 1st, Congratulations! You must be pretty stoked.
Mike: Absolutely! It’s kind of surreal. Watching the other athletes on YouTube at Rio and in other major races, it was just crazy to get to row with them…let alone being selected for the team to go to this year’s Worlds
DrydenWire: So can you explain exactly what this is to our viewers?
Mike: Sure, So this summer in Boston (at Community Rowing Institute…a major rowing facility on the famous Charles River) they held the Paralympic selection camp. It’s basically a boot camp to train and compare athletes to choose the four-person boat plus coxswain to represent the US in the World Rowing event. Assuming we all maintain our training regimen and form this squad is on track for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
DrydenWire: How does someone get selected to this?
Mike: I got in the pipeline by competing in the world indoor rowing championships in Boston back in Feb. The indoor championships are on the erg machine (the rowing machine you see in some gyms). This machine is a baseline to compare times and speed on an objective scale. I was able to place third overall in my para category…in the World. Great Brittan and Italy were first and second.
DrydenWire: How long have you been doing this?
Mike: It’s crazy but only one year on the water. I have been training on the erg a bit longer, but really only been training on the water with a crew in Orlando about 2-3 times a week for a year now.
DrydenWire: You have only been doing this for a year?
Mike: My wife said to me “Mike people don’t just wake up and say I want to be a Paralympian” That being said I think I put in more training in the past year than most =) I have a pretty strong internal drive and great coaches in Orlando and now Boston.
DrydenWire: Is being selected a one-time thing? Do you do this again next year where you have to try out again?
Mike: Technically I will need to attend the selection camp every year going up to the Olympics. That being said the future years will likely be more of building the selected boat to get that perfect chemistry within the racing shell and develop a great crew that can get gold. That being said the chance of being cut is always there and that’s a huge motivator when getting yourself out of bed at 4:30 to get on the water.
DrydenWire: You have mentioned the Olympics a few times.
Mike: Yep 2020 Tokyo! The Paralympics take place right after the regular Olympics and we use many of the same venues and stay at the same athlete dorms. The Paralympics have really gained momentum over the past decade as people are seeing Prosthetics and other ambulatory devices in the mainstream media and on some the wounded warriors coming back from Iraq/Afghanistan.
DrydenWire: Why do you think they selected you?
Mike: So being selected I think was part raw power and genetics and part strong learning curve. The last two Paralympics and many world events USA has gotten silver and lost to Great Brittan time and time again. I think they see me as that raw power that if harnessed can get us each and lead to Gold. Also my ability to learn quickly on the fly from the coxswain and from the coach on the chase boat they are impressed and see that by 2020 my technique will be near perfect, with the work of course.
DrydenWire: You’re a Spooner guy. Born here and graduated here. Did you ever imagine you would be where you are today?
Mike: Yep Spooner treated me well! Fond memories of Tony’s pizza, floating down the Namakagen River, deer hunting, etc. I don’t know that I imagined I would be doing what I am doing now. A lot of things from Spooner lined up to get me to where I am today. It's definitely one of the things God had lined up for me too and I just didn’t know it.
My parents encouraged me to play sports and so I went for it. The Spooner coaches were always supportive and the community rallied around me even back then. So I played hockey a bit in middle school, and wrestled (without my prosthesis on) in high school and also golf.
DrydenWire: How did you lose part of your leg? How old were you?
Mike: So when I was born I basically had a foot that was underdeveloped. Many surgeries and years of trying to salvage the limb the Dr’s at Shriners hospital recommended I proceed with amputation at about age 10 or 11. I said, “let’s do it!” I was tired of seeing other kids with Prosthetics run circles around me and I was ready to move on. I never had to look back at that as a bad decision…after only a few months I was running around breaking parts on my prosthesis left and right! That’s partially what lead me to my current career as a Prosthetist. One being the great team of them that worked with me at the Shriners and also always fixing mine…I figured why not fix others.
Drydenwire: How much has the technology has changed since then?
Mike: Tons! They used to make legs to look “real” But it was more like a mannequin leg and was very heavy. Now we use carbon fiber sockets, titanium alloys, ultra-light materials, microprocessor ankles, and knees that analysis your gait as you change walking speed or terrain. I am even spearheading some of the 3D socket printing at the Orlando VA where I work. Right now 3D printing is all the rage but we are doing design testing and figuring out safe ways for us to use 3D sockets that are weight bearing and capable of the abuse some the vets will put them under.
DrydenWire: So what’s next? When is the event?
Mike: So the first big one is Worlds 2017 right next door to me in Sarasota, FL. It’s the first time the Worlds have been in North America for 23 years so it’s going to a big one! After that, regattas (races) throughout the US and then Worlds 2018 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
DrydenWire: Will you keep us informed on how you are doing?
Mike: Most definitely…If there is Spooner peeps rooting me on, that’s definitely good luck!
DrydenWire: Any message you want to send to our viewers here in the greater Spooner area?
Mike: Keep your kids active and trying out new sports, especially if they have a disability or other challenge. It’s a big world out there and you’ll find that they aren’t alone and there are plenty of “challenged” athletes to compete against.
DrydenWire: Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to chat with us. Best wishes and we hope to hear from you soon.
Mike: My pleasure! Go USA!