“It’s been such a long time coming,” Dick’s employees head to Rio for Paralympics

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OKLAHOMA - "I qualified a couple of months ago, and I still get goosebumps when people say it to me, because it's been such a long time coming," said Paralympic athlete Kelly Allen. "I've been training for four years."

It was a chance meeting in Germany when Allen met an Oklahoman.

"I was training by myself, and she was like 'That's silly. Why don't you come to Oklahoma? They have this great Olympic and Paralympic training site,'” Allen said.

She'll compete in the Rio Paralympics for kayaking this year.

"Kayaking is such a beautiful sport to me, because you put me in a boat next to someone that has all those fun parts, and we'll see who gets to that finish line faster," Allen said.

While training, she's also working at Dick's Sporting Goods under their new Contenders program.

It allows athletes a flexible schedule to train.

"On an average day, I'm on the water or in the gym at least four to five hours a day," Allen said. "To have a job that will work around that and I can still put food on my plate at the end of the day is such a blessing."

There are 200 U.S.A. hopefuls involved in Dick's Contender program - 10 here in Oklahoma.

Chris Hoodye is still waiting to find out if he'll go to Rio this summer as a sitting volleyball player.

"So, I was in a car accident. That's how I lost my leg and half my foot," Hoodye said. "Prior that, I had played in high school and two years in college."

A coach signed him up to play while he was still in a coma, and it's become a passion.

When he's not spending hours training, he's getting to know his fellow athletes at work.

"We're allowed to kind of come in and make our own schedule, work around camp weekends if we're going to be out of the country," Hoodye said. "We can take those days off without having to worry about coming home to a job.”

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