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Snellville company rolls wheelchair sports

5:29 AM, Jun 25, 2013   |    comments
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Wheelchair athletes test the course for the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. -- Without Barry Ewing, the AJC Peachtree Road Race would look very different.

In all probability, you have not heard of this Snellville entrepreneur. But chances are, if you can't walk or run, you know him.

If you've spent time in the Shepherd Center, you know of this self-described Southern gadget man and his genius.

"In my younger days, I could have been one of those guys going over the wall -- hammering on that car and in 15 or 20 seconds back out on the track," Ewing said.

But thousands and thousands are grateful he didn't go that NASCAR route.

"I put my energy into building these chairs," he said.

In a weather worn garage, in the shadow of Stone Mountain, 30 yards and 33 years behind his house, Barry Ewing toils for others.

"There is a lot of people in the world I build equipment for that would never see any type of sport if I didn't build their equipment," he explained.

He has changed for the better the lives of men, women and children everywhere.

"I'm a guy who loves to hear they went outside and enjoyed themselves," he said.

Ewing has been designing, building, and shipping "sportschairs" since 1980. He creates custom lightweight, maneuverable chairs for every sports imaginable, from rugby to fishing to racing.

On this day, one of the world's best known racers was in the garage. Santiago Sanz, who won the wheelchair event at the Boston Marathon, was picking up a new chair.

"I have been racing since 1993," Sanz said, adding that Eagle Sportschairs make life great for racers in Europe. "Some people from my country of Spain send an email and they get the chair sent to a dealer there or whatever."

There is hardly a country or a state Eagle Sportschairs doesn't ship to.

The company has been at the forefront of a massive design change over the last 20 years. Now the emphasis is on materials.

Ewing pointed toward a chair he is working on and said, "Like this is all titanium right here, so it lightens all the weight of it."

But with all the welding and grinding and measuring, the success of Ewing's business is defined not by work orders but instead by a different kind of correspondence.

"I got a lot of stacks of letters -- I have saved where they will send me and say this is the best thing I ever done, I enjoy life," he said.

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