Davis & Elkins College head triathlon coach Chris Hammer was both grateful and surprised to see a large number of students, colleagues and community members turn out for a parade in his honor Friday.
It had only been about 24 hours since he returned to Elkins after representing the United States on the Paralympic Triathlon Team. Triathletes covered a 750m swim, non-drafting 20km bike and 5km run at Tokyo’s Odaiba Marine Park, the same venue as the Olympic triathlon competitions. Hammer placed fourth in the PTS5 Sport Class.
On Friday, a Davis & Elkins College golf car, escorted by an Elkins City Police cruiser, transported Hammer, his wife, daughters and Mr. Senator through the Wees Historic District in Elkins. Paradegoers – some wearing red, white and blue clothing – waved signs and flags, rang cow bells and shouted out their congratulations. At the end of the route, a group of D&E staff members set off colored smoke sticks.
Born with one hand due to a congenital condition, Hammer never let his impairment impact his ability to compete in athletics while growing up and in college. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Hammer joined the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Team, where he was able to qualify for the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the 1,500-meters and the marathon. In 2013, he decided to try out a new sport: triathlon. Despite not having a training background in swimming or biking, two of the three elements of a triathlon race, he felt his long-distance running success would translate.
Since then, he has no regrets in his decision to branch out into triathlon. Competing on the USA Paratriathlon National Team, Hammer was a bronze medalist at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in 2014, 2017 and 2019.
He also competed as a Paralympian in the last two Olympics, held in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, and has 23 ITU Paratriathlon international event podium finishes in 31 total races, including 10 first-place finishes.