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Teenager Won't Leave Her Older Disabled Brother behind and Pushes Him on Her Races

Lois Oladejo
Oct 29, 2021
09:40 A.M.
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A high school freshman is set to become a global trendsetter after discovering the ideal way of teaming up with her disabled brother in a competitive sport.

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Susan Bergeman, a 14-year-old high schooler from Wisconsin, made headlines after completing a 3.1-mile high school cross country race while pushing her disabled brother on a wheelchair.

The race, which was already tasking as a single competitor, saw the teenager scale through hills, cross grassy patches, and brave the scorching weather to cross the finish line with her brother, Jeffery Bergeman, in tow.

A picture of Susan Bergeman completing a 3.1-mile high school cross country race, while pushing her brother | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

A picture of Susan Bergeman completing a 3.1-mile high school cross country race, while pushing her brother | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

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To her, what mattered was being privileged to compete with her brother and strengthen their bond further. Jeffery has been a part of Susan’s life since her birth in 2007.

When she was a year old, she witnessed her brother, one year her senior, battle for his life following a cardiac arrest that left his brain oxygen-deprived for 20 minutes.

He became severely brain damaged as a result and was soon diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The boy grew up as disabled, depending on a wheelchair to be mobile, a nightmare that quickly became Susan’s normal.

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The West Salem athlete grew up doting on her big brother and keeping a close relationship with him. Once they got into high school, Susan, who came from a family of racers, embraced the track team.

Her brother’s condition made it impossible for him to become part of the competitive sport as per the school’s regulations.

Notwithstanding, the athlete strived to find a way to ensure they could participate in a sport together. Then it clicked. She decided to bring her brother along in all her races, to have him experience the running “high” as well.

High school racer Susan who ran while pushing her disabled brother. | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

High school racer Susan who ran while pushing her disabled brother. | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

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When she expressed her intention to embark on the season’s high school cross country race, her coach Roger Skifstad and parents, Jess and Jordan, tried dissuading her. But the teenager was not deterred. Susan explained:

“I’m a very competitive person, so I almost feel like I have a point to prove.”

The youngster admitted pushing her brother in front of her often kept her focus on the race, “mentally pushing the pain away.” So far, the approach has seen her through several duo racing events, never emerging in last place.

High school racer Susan who ran while pushing her disabled brother. | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

High school racer Susan who ran while pushing her disabled brother. | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

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Her only regret was that the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association only considered her and Jeffery as an exhibition rather than actual competitors.

Although they were allowed to run together, the board imposed several mandates on them, including not competing in an official capacity and having their race times deviate from the standard. Expressing her grievances, the teenager divulged:

“We are not competing at all. There are a lot of rules on us like we aren’t supposed to pass people and we are supposed to go slow and let everyone finish first and our results don’t matter.”

High school racer Susan who ran while pushing her disabled brother. | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

High school racer Susan who ran while pushing her disabled brother. | Photo: youtube.com/KARE 11

She admitted the rules are annoying to both her and her brother. However, there is little the duo can do to change it. They can only hope their sports gained more recognition around the globe and encouraged more people to embrace it as a competitive track event.

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