Houston athletes set sights on 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris

HOUSTON – Houston is lucky to be the home of several world-class athletes and that list includes a pair of college students who recently competed in the 2023 Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Chelsea Stein, 20, and 22-year-old Jacob Allen are decorated Paralympic athletes who now have their sights set on the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

Stein and Allen earned scholarships to the University of Arizona and are on the school’s track and road racing team, competing in wheelchair racing. Both compete in sprints and marathons.

“I have always been really active and exercising was my hobby, so I used to push around the track on the high school track and in the middle school track, either on my crutches when I could walk or in my wheelchair,” said Stein.

Stein went to Klein Collins High School in Spring and Allen went to Kingwood Park. Even though the schools did not have adaptive racing teams, both said coaches and administrators helped put them on the path to competition. Both said their families were instrumental in providing the support needed to travel to various track meets during high school. Allen said it was at a track meet where he was first approached by a University of Arizona representative.

“He started asking me questions and asking about my future, what I’m planning to do after school. I was completely lost, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Allen. “He said, ‘If you would like to continue this sport, we have a program for you.’”

Allen is majoring in Russian and Slavic studies with plans to become an interpreter. Stein, who is earning her nursing degree, said it was Allen’s mother who recruited her to come to Arizona after she had enrolled in classes at UT Arlington. Stein said she wanted to stay in-state, but couldn’t find a school with an adaptive racing program.

“(Allen’s) his mom is the only reason I’m at Arizona because they saw me at State, at UIL State and they were like, ‘Oh, she would be a good recruit,” said Stein.

Both credit family support with being instrumental in their success as athletes. Stein was adopted from China when she was 10 years old.

“I just could not have imagined my life turning around that quickly because as a kid in China, I had no future,” Stein said. “I‘m so blessed, I wouldn’t wish my life to be anything else because this is the greatest life I could wish for.”

Allen was adopted at age 15 from Ukraine.

“Now I have more ability to improve my life and help others,” Allen said. “My dad also does marathons, so he is like my motivation for continuing to do this because at first, I saw his medals I was like, ‘Oh, cool, you’re winning.’ Now we have this competition.”

Allen first represented Team USA in 2019 in Switzerland and both recently competed in the Parapan American Games in Chile, where Stein took home a silver medal.

“I had my coach telling me being nervous is ok. That’s a good thing, that means you care. That made me feel better,” said Stein.

Both Allen and Stein said competing on the world stage has been thrilling.

“I was worried,” Allen said of the recent games in Chile. “But a lot of coaches said don’t worry about the place, it’s all about the experience you get.”

Further showing their dedication, less than two weeks after the games in Chile, both competed in the Honolulu marathon.

“It was great, it’s Hawaii; you can not say it’s bad,” said Allen.

Both Allen and Stein said they will be competing in the Chevron Houston Marathon in January, continuing with their collegiate competitions and training to try to earn a spot on the team for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. Time trials for the 2024 games take place in July.

About the Author

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”

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