Paralympics Keep Going for Gold
Millions of Americans spent their August nights glued to the TV watching Michael Phelps obtain a record-breaking eight gold medals and Nastia Liukin prove herself to be the best gymnast in the world. This month, such feats of athletic achievement continue in Beijing and are just as amazing as they were last month – except this time, the Olympians are all individuals with disabilities.
The 2008 Paralympics began last weekend in Beijing and will continue
until through tomorrow. Olympic enthusiasts, take heed – although these
athletes aren’t generating the media attention Phelps, Liukin and their
fellow August athletes did, their stories are just as – if not more -
incredible. Here’s a sampling:
United States swimmer Melissa Stockwell is one of 15 disabled
military veterans competing in the Paralympics. She began swimming
competitively four years ago after losing a leg in a roadside bombing
Great Britain’s David Roberts, an athlete with cerebral palsy, is
aiming to win a whopping five gold medals in swimming, having won seven
titles at the last Paralympics.
United States Paralympian Barbara Buchan sustained a brain injury
after a cycling accident 26 years ago. Last week, the 52-year-old
Buchan (the U.S. Paralympics team’s oldest athlete) broke a world
record and won a gold medal in her disability class’ individual
3,000-meter cycling pursuit.
Paralympics stories like these are innumerous, and the reception these
athletes have received in China, a country not known for inclusivity of
its disabled population, has been downright surprising – in the best
way possibly. And although it’s a likely but unfortunate assumption to
say that we probably won’t see any of these athletes on the side of a
Frosted Flakes box or making $100 million in post-games endorsements,
the accomplishments of the Paralympics athletes are nothing short of phenomenally inspiring – I hope you’ll join me in watching the closing ceremony tomorrow evening.