Ohio Paralympian may not go to Rio if US won’t pay for coach’s expenses

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – An autistic athlete from the Dayton area is on the USA Table Tennis Paralympic Team, but he may not get to compete in Rio.

“I went undefeated in Toronto and that feeling when you got the gold medal, man it was exciting!” says athlete Ben Hadden.

He’s practicing at the downtown YMCA, volleying back and forth with his younger sister.

“You train your whole life for it,” he says. “You really want to go.”

His mother, Julie Hadden, says Team USA denied their request for Ben to have a medically necessary emotional coach.

“He also is autistic and has some other medical disabilities,” she says. “Intellectually disabled players are allowed to have support staff with them. It’s a shame that table tennis doesn’t get on board.”

She says she should be his aide, because she’s someone Ben trusts and is trained in his medical care.

“It’s really hard for someone with autism to leave their daily routine,” says Julie. “They just need to approve his ADA request from both the doctor and myself and from Ben to let him compete, because at this point they’re not letting him compete.”

Ben says he won’t go to Rio without his mom.

“She’s known me for 21 years and she knows what she’s doing. Nobody else can do what she’s doing,” he says. “She’s the one who calms me down and gets me away from the breakdowns.”

A statement from the CEO of USA Table Tennis Gordon Kaye reads:

“We are proud that Ben qualified for the Games and look forward to having him join our team for the Paralympic Games in Rio this September. We are already working closely with our team support staff and the USOC’s staff of medical professionals and are confident that we will be able to provide Ben with the necessary medical care and support to have a safe, competitive and enjoyable Games.”

“I’m training very hard every day in case I get to go, but if I don’t get to go I’m going to be mad and sad,” says Ben. “Don’t give up on anybody or anything.”

To sign Ben’s petition, click here.

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