'An inspiration to us all' Hines inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
by Cris Italia
So when marathoner Helene Hines of Lido Beach graced the same stage as soccer star Sara Whalen, ice skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes, hockey great Bobby Nystrom and legendary golfer Amy Alcott, it was fair to say she was slightly overwhelmed.
What made the day -- April 6 -- even more overwhelming was that she was being honored alongside some of the best in the sports world. But even more than a peer of theirs, she was treated as an inspiration.
The annual Jewish Sports Hall of Fame welcomed Hines, who was recognized for her years as a marathoner, both as a runner and as an internationally accomplished hand-cyclist, which she took up after multiple sclerosis ended her running career.
"You are an inspiration to us all," said Olympic soccer star Sara Whalen, pointing Hines out in the crowd. "It's an honor to be with you today." Though she appeared somewhat astonished by the adulation, Hines wore a big smile, and the compliment was just one of many she received on this day.
For Hines, the induction, in Commack, was a welcome surprise. She never expected to be honored with athletes she has watched and admired through the years. "I'm still trying to take this in," she said. "To be here with some of the greatest athletes in the world, it's just an amazing feeling."
Hines learned at age 30 that she would have to live the rest of her life with multiple sclerosis. As a phys. ed. teacher, she knew it was important to keep herself as mobile as possible before her body eventually succumbed to her disability. She had run 27 marathons, including the New York and Boston races, completing them each time.
Twenty years later, her condition took a turn for the worse, and although Hines could still use her legs from time to time, she could no longer stand for long periods. Her resilient attitude sparked an interest in hand-cycling, a sport she has now dominated for four years.
"It's so competitive," Hines said. "I figured I would do this for as long as I'm good at it."
Hines has won the New York Marathon's Ambulatory Disabled Division three years in a row and has taken the same division in the Boston Marathon the past two years. She won two bronze medals at the Paralympic World Games in Altenstadt, Germany, last year.
She was also recognized by former president Bill Clinton. In 1994, after signing the Americans with Disabilities Act, Clinton commemorated the event by running with Hines.
Despite the odds against her, Hines has bounced back every time, which led The Jewish Sports Hall of Fame committee to decide she warranted induction among the other sports greats. "She has accomplished so much," said Alan Friedman of the Hall of Fame. He agreed with Whalen's sentiments, and added, "She is definitely an inspiration to so many."
After the ceremony, Hines was almost speechless. "I'm still in awe of the people here, and the great athletes," she said. "I have so much respect for them, and to be honored with them is just a dream come true."
Of course there are days when Hines is not feeling as good as she usually does, but that's when she sucks it up and pushes herself harder. "I just try to keep positive, and I have to thank my husband, who has been so supportive of me," she said. "Without him I don't think I would have been able to have this attitude."
Oceansiders get their due
While the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame honored and inducted women in sports this year, two male Oceanside residents were also presented with awards. Legendary high school basketball coach Ken Fiedler and standout high school athlete Jesse Koller were among the award winners this year.
Koller received the Jules D. Mazor Award as the Jewish High School Athlete of the Year. As a senior at Oceanside High School, Koller is a three-sport athlete, participating in soccer, basketball and track. In addition to his excellence on the field, Koller has earned a 93 weighted average and scored a 1340 on his SAT.
Fiedler, the proud father of Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, was honored with the Dick Steinberg Good Guy Award. Fiedler was a legend in New York City as a basketball coach for Springfield Gardens High School in Queens. He led the school to two city championships. Ken and Jay are the first father and son to both receive Good Guy awards.
Fiedler credited both his sons and wife for putting up with a basketball coach all those years. "It must have been hard at times dealing with me, but my wife deserves a lot of credit for making things easy," he said. And while Jay Fiedler has won accolades for his play in the NFL, Ken Fiedler says his son Scott has been a big reason for the family's success. "He's like the backbone of this family, and there is no one Jay admires more than his big brother Scott."
This was Fiedler's first time as an award winner at the Hall of Fame, after watching his son honored several times. "This has been a long time coming," he said. "It seems I'm here every year watching Jay getting honored."