On August 8, EnterpriseWorks and Intelliwheels will be hosting a reception for all the Illini who will be competing in this summer’s Paralympic Games. The reception will be hosted in the EnterpriseWorks atrium and food and drinks will be served.
By day, Josh George works for Intelliwheels, a startup at EnterpiseWorks. By night, George is training for another team – the U.S. Paralympic team. IntelliWheels, founded in 2010 by University students Marissa Siebel and Scott Daigle, develops innovative wheelchair technologies that relieve the stress on shoulders without the use of motors or batteries. IntelliWheels is currently finishing up their first round of funding, and plans to launch their product in the fall.
George, a 2007 graduate of the University, joined IntelliWheels in 2011 as the Director of Public Relations. George met Siebel while training with the University’s wheelchair basketball team.
“We were kind of just swapping ideas…and she started telling me about IntelliWheels…and just through chatting with her and later with Scott Daigle, they invited me to join the team.” George has been with IntelliWheels for one year as Director of Public Relations. Since then, George has divided his time between the growth of Intelliwheels and the continuation of his career as a world-renowned paralympian.
George began wheelchair racing at the age of eight, four years after a fall from his twelve-story window left him paralyzed from the waist down. He participated his first Paralympic games in 2004, after his wheelchair racing coach at the University pushed him to try for a spot on the U.S. team.
“I never thought I would be good enough or fast enough,” George said. Yet, in the first games of his Paralympic career, George brought home two bronze medals and broke a world record in the 400 meter race.
“I didn’t hold on to [the record] that long…but it was still amazing experience,” he said. George still races for the U.S. Paralympic team and has since collected ten medals, six of them gold. Today, he is arguably one of the greatest paralympians in the world.
George competes in five to ten marathons a year, as well as numerous major track meets and shorter races. He trains hard, “sometimes two times a day,” he said. Lately, he’s been training for the upcoming Paralympics in London and working to get company sponsors.
“I think that through wheelchair racing there’s a lot of sponsorship opportunity that’s getting overlooked right now,” said George, “so [I’m] trying to get those companies to think out of the box a bit and see how they could be benefit.” Apart from the typical sponsorship agreement, George is looking for opportunities to build close relationships with company sponsors.
“We’ll build that relationship,” he said, “and I can work with them along the lines of PR…meet-and-greets, speaking for different events, and again wearing [the company logo]…I get quite a bit of exposure through racing.”
At the U.S. Paralympic Trials that took place in Indianapolis from June 29 to July 2, George set an American record when he came in first for the 400 meter race. He also won first place in the 800 meter, 1500 meter, and 5000 meter races.
The opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, England will be on August 29.