Inspiring Athletes Who Have Overcome Their Disabilities to Dominate
Oscar Pistorius Oscar was a disabled athlete who had his feet amputated at 11 months old. Why? Because of a congenital issue. Nevertheless, like the other disabled athletes,… Trista - September 10, 2022
Oscar was a disabled athlete who had his feet amputated at 11 months old. Why? Because of a congenital issue. Nevertheless, like the other disabled athletes, Oscar managed to persevere. He ended up competing in both non-disabled and disabled sporting events, along with sprinting events for amputees below the knee. Oscar Pistorius was the tenth athlete to compete in the Olympic and the paralympic games.
The IAAF constantly subjected him because of his artificial limbs; however, he disputed it. He was able to run during the normal summer Olympics as a participant in the main games. This fantastic athlete only competed once because he shot and killed his girlfriend just a year later. They accused him of culpable homicide. While Oscar didn’t have a long-time Olympic career, his ability to play beforehand and win the 2011 world championships in the athletics department showed that he overcame his disability.
After a lawnmower accident, they had to amputate Marlon’s foot. Then, this phenomenal athlete bounced from house to house as an orphan, and he managed to overcome the pain of the struggles of orphanages. However, despite his disability and other issues, Marlon was a US Paralympian competing in the T44 events. He went to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where he won gold.
Marlon Shirley also played in the 2004 Athens Olympics and got gold in the 100-meter. This amazing athlete also competed in the high jump and 200-meter, where he earned silver for both. In 2004, Marlon Shirley won the bronze in the long jump in Athens. He also competed in the 2007 paralympic games in Rio, winning gold in the 100-meter. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Im Dong Hyun is a South Korean archer who competed for the national team. The former number one archer in the world has a disability in his eyes. Im Dong Hyun has 20/200 vision in the left and 20/100 in his right eye. This diagnosis means that his vision was inconsistent, making seeing the targets challenging. However, despite this disability, he is a gifted archer. Im Dong Hyun set world records in the 72 men’s arrow. Plus, he had a large score of 687, but it was not recognized as an Olympic record since it happened before the ceremonies.
Nevertheless, he won multiple gold medals and a bronze in London in 2012. This disabled athlete also earned many world championships and even went to the world cup finals and won in 2008. Im Dong Hyun overcame his disability since he learned to manipulate his eyes to see the target even better! Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Have you ever heard of the phenomenal Terry Fox? This athlete was not just an athlete for the Canadian team but also a cancer research activist. Why? Because he was stricken with cancer and forced to have his leg amputated. While he did recover, Terry wanted to do something more with himself. He decided to run across Canada from east to west to raise cancer research money.
Terry Fox ran even while cancer struck his body, and after 143 days and over 3300 miles, he ultimately had to give up the dream. However, this inspired the Terry Fox run, which has millions of people competing each year to help fund cancer research. Although he knew his dying days were coming, he still persevered and made a difference! Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
This fantastic athlete lost his hearing due to meningitis. Jeff Float is mostly deaf in one ear and can only half hear in the other. Nevertheless, he became a competitive swimmer. Jeff Float broke records and was the world champion for years. He was part of the 1980 Olympics team in multiple events, but Jeff could not participate due to the Moscow boycott.
However, four years later, Jeff Flout earned gold in the 4×200 men’s freestyle relay and got fourth in the 200m freestyle in 2016. He was considered one of the first legally deaf participants in the US to win a gold medal, and he could keep up with his own teammates, who could hear perfectly. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Have you ever heard of this incredible athlete? Dave Stevens was an amputee sportsman who played baseball in the minor league for the St. Paul Saints. Being a congenital amputee, Dave could not use his legs to run and would use his hands to do this. This three-sport athlete had tons of sports magazines covering his unique story.
Dave Stevens was able to hit state records, especially in wrestling, for the most takedowns, the most walks for a career, and also hit season records for walks. He used his hands to show that while he couldn’t run like most, he didn’t see it as a handicap in his own way. Not only that, but Dave Stevens was able to pinch hit for Darryl Strawberry too! Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Known as “Fast” Faldir Chabari, this was a kickboxer who was able to compete in Muay Thai. He only has one eye after losing the second one during an accident. Nevertheless, Faldir was able to compete in the WFCA as a Thai boxing junior middleweight, and he won the championship. He mostly fought in the Netherlands and earned the KBO European title in 2001. Faldir Chabari also participated in the Battle of Arnhem event and won the WPKL Dutch National title in 2002.
Even more, Faldir Chabari entered the K-1 MAX Netherlands and qualified for a reserve fight in the final. While he did miss out on a few years, he was a middleweight that held the title as the Middleweight Champion for the WFCA until 2010. Although he did have the limitation of one eye, this fantastic athlete still fought and trained harder than ever! Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Kevin Laue was a basketball player for Manhattan college and overcame the adversity of having a physical disability. Due to blood circulation issues, he did not have a full arm, and he had a stump for a forearm. He was born with half of one of his arms missing, but that didn’t stop him. This disabled athlete still played division 1 for Manhattan College.
Despite this, he was encouraged to play soccer and didn’t want to use a prosthetic arm. But as Kevin Laue learned to play with one arm, he could dunk a basketball. This amazing athlete participated in an excellent college career with many games. He did qualify for a postseason tournament but didn’t want to play in the tournament. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Marla Runyan is a disabled athlete who doesn’t let the problems with her body keep her down. She developed Stargardt’s, a form of macular degeneration. Although she was legally blind, Marla Runyan did have peripheral vision, which helped with seeing shadows and shapes. She studied at San Diego State, where she competed in the 200-meter dash, the heptathlon, the shot put, the high jump, the 100-meter hurdle, javelin, the long jump, and also the 800-meter run.
Marla Runyan could also participate in soccer and gymnastics until she couldn’t see where the ball was. Her story helped her qualify for the heptathlon in 1996, and she ended up winning a gold medal in 1992 at the Paralympics. In 1999, she ran the 500-meter at the Pan American Games, getting the gold medal. She was the first blind athlete to race on the Us team for the 1500 meter, winning eighth place.
Terence Parkin was another swimmer who overcame adversity from a physical disability. Being deaf at an early age meant he had to compete differently. Nevertheless, Terence Parkin won the silver medal during the 2000 Olympics for the 200-meter breaststroke. He also competed in the summer Olympics four years later and in the Deaflympics and took home over 29 gold medals.
He’s also the only swimmer that’s deaf to be in the FINA elite rankings during 1999 and 2000. Terence Parkin has also won the most Deaflympics medals, a total of 33.Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Paola is an athlete who got poliomyelitis at the age of eight and has been wheelchair-bouncing since that point. She developed a love for archery, competing in the summer Paralympics between 1999 and 2004, getting five gold medals, two bonzes, and a silver. Paola Fantato also was in the 1996 Paralympics and summer Olympics, getting gold in the women’s team during the Paralympics and bronze in the women’s individual.
This outstanding disabled athlete also earned gold for both individual and team events during the summer Paralympics in 2000. Four years later, she won again the silver and gold during the Paralympics. This pro learned how to master the bow and brought home many medals because of this incredible talent.
Ron Santo is a Chicago Cubs player who struggled with a condition that many people deal with. He had diabetes. This athlete was open about his condition, but at first, he hid that he had type 1 diabetes. Why? Because they would force him to retire. So, how did he manage his sugar? Ron Santo would base his blood sugar levels on his moods. When he felt the blood sugar was too low, he would eat a candy bar.
Eventually, Ron Santo had both legs amputated in the early 2000s; the secret he had since 1971 was finally revealed. However, he continued to play baseball even after his time with the Cubs and the Sox and eventually was a major proponent of the Diabetes Research Foundation. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Neroli Fairhall was a paraplegic competitor in archery for the Olympics. After losing feeling from the waist down due to a motorcycle accident, she wasn’t sure what to do. Before this, she competed in other events but eventually went into archery. She participated in the 1984 Olympics and was also the first paraplegic athlete to be a part of the Olympics.
Neroli Fairhall then started to play in the Paralympics, along with the IPC-Archery tournaments and other Paralympics. This phenomenal disabled athlete competed in track and field, along with archery as well. She was an all-around athlete who used her disability to continue to compete despite all odds.
Nick Newell is a lightweight boxer with many wins in his career. Born with congenital amputations that made him unable to have a functioning left arm below where the elbow was, he learned how to use his right hand to grasp and manipulate objects. Nick joined the wrestling team, but it was hard. However, he did not give up and tried to keep up with the others.
Nick Newell had over 300 victories during his time wrestling and also grew fascinated with mixed martial arts. He had five wins and one loss. Also, during his early time in the MMA, he struggled because he couldn’t fight many due to having one arm. Eventually, Nick joined Xtreme Fighting and shark fights and competed and won in many bouts there, defeating Denis Hernandez during the XFC with a 71-second submission victory.
At four years old, H Boniface Prabhu had a botched lumbar puncture that rendered him paraplegic for the rest of his life. He tried not to let it bother him, but then he discovered the excitement that he felt when he played tennis. This athlete joined the wheelchair team and also tried other disciplines. He also competed in badminton, shot put, table tennis, javelin, discus, and shooting, along with wheelchair tennis.
H Boniface Prabhu even got gold in shot put and also won a silver in discus. He then went to the Paralympics in 1998 and participated in discus and javelin. He could be the first Indian man to win a medal during the international Paralympic games. H, or Harry, is a quadriplegic tennis player and was one of the first tennis players in India to pioneer the sport. He earned a medal during the 1998 world championships.
Oz Sanchez joined the Marine corps, eventually becoming a Navy SEAL in 2001. However, between transfers, he got into a motorcycle accident that caused an injury to his spinal cord and paralysis. Despite his crash, this fantastic athlete did not give up. Instead, he found a new sense of direction because of the accident. Even though he was depressed, Oz Sanchez decided to take up new activities, including handcycling, a popular alternative to cycling.
Oz Sanchez participated in five world championships, getting the gold in the handcycling in the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics. And he soon became a handcycling world champion for five years and was deemed the “world’s fastest handcyclist” by many people. He learned how to use his body to his advantage and competed in newfound ways that would fit his ability to compete. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Jason was hit as a child by a woman driving over 70 mph and then ran a red light. The driver left him for dead with over 21 broken bones and a collapsed lung. While he became partially paralyzed, he eventually recovered, and it helped him learn to compete again. Today, Jason Lester is an endurance athlete who won the 2009 ESPY Award in the category for the best male athlete with a disability. He was one of the first to compete in the Ultraman World championships as an athlete who was disabled.
However, Jason has more to his name! He also was the founder of the EP1CMAN, the EPIC5 challenges, and the NEVER STOP foundations in 2007. This outstanding disabled athlete competed in triathlons on the Hawaiian Islands. Even better, he became the fourth quickest runner from NYC to San Francisco to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. Where else did he travel? Jason Patrick Lester ran the Great Wall of China for over 83 days and set the record for the first person to run this entire wall solo in one attempt.
Natalia is a table tennis player that was part of the Polish team. She was born with a congenital deficiency, so she doesn’t have a hand or forearm on her right-hand side. However, she did not give up, and she was able to participate in a bunch of other competitions with athletes who were able-bodied. Natalia Partyka also played against those who had disabilities as well. Natalia competed in both the Paralympics and the Olympics. In fact, she was only one of the two athletes that year to compete in both games. Natalia also competed in class 10 and made it into the top 32.
She eventually won three golds during the European paralympic championships and a bronze during the ITTF Junior Teams Championships. In the 2012 Paralympics and summer Olympics, she beat China’s team to get a gold medal. She was the paralympic champion, and Natalia Partyka earned bronze during the regular Olympics, where her team defeated France. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Mallory Weggemann broke world records when participating in S7 and eventually got gold medals during the IPC swimming world championships. However, she developed paraplegia after receiving shingles treatment, where the epidural injection paralyzed her legs. She ended up using this to her advantage, and she eventually went on to swim again. Luckily, this athlete bounced back quickly, getting in the water again within just four months of the accident. They reclassified her in S8, a controversial claim, but she eventually won the freestyle despite the change.
Her goal was to be in the Paralympics, and she eventually did get customized leg braces to help with this. She trained to be in the Paralympics in 2016, and eventually, in 2021, she went to the Tokyo Olympics, winning medals and breaking two major records during these games. They already selected Mallory as the 2022 representative for the World Para Swimming Championships, showing that you can recover faster than you think, despite your disability.
Chelsea McClammer was born March 1, 1994, in Benton City, Washington, United States. She Schooled at Kiona-Benton City High School before obtaining a higher degree at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. McClammer wasn’t born with a paraplegia disability; she was in a car crash at six years old, damaging her spinal cord. She started competing in wheelchair racing when she was twelve and qualified for the US Paralympics Track and field Nationals.
In 2011, McClammer won a bronze medal in the 800-meter race at the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. By 2013, McClammer attended the University of Illinois Urbana-champaign, where she joined USA IPC Athletics world championship team and competed in the women’s 200 meters. In 2016, she won two silver medals and one bronze in the women’s 5000 meters and 1500-meter races at the 2016 summer Paralympics.
Alana Nichols is an American Paralympic wheelchair basketball player and alpine skier born on March 21, 1983, in the United States to Susan Nichols and David Nichols. She has three siblings, David James Nichols, Julianne Nichols, and Jovan Heusser. She is married to Roy Tuscany. Nichols sustained a spinal cord injury in a snowboarding accident when she was 17 years old. In 2008, in her debut at the Beijing Paralympics, she won the gold competing in women’s wheelchair basketball.
In March 2010, she completed her first IPC Alpine world cup season. This incredible athlete earned first place in the downhill, second in super combined, and third in super G. She competed in the 2010 winter paralympic games in Vancouver, Canada, where she won two gold medals and a silver and a bronze medal. In 2016, Nichols made her debut in the paracanoe at the paralympic games in Rio.
Thomas John Dempsey lived from January 12, 1947, to April 4, 2020. He was born to Huey Dempsey and Laverne Dempsey in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. He was born without toes and fingers on his right hand and leg. Thomas John Dempsey was an American professional Football player who was a placekicker in the national football league for the New Orleans Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams, the Houston Oilers, and the Buffalo Bills.
He attended High school at San Dieguito in California, then proceeded to Palomar college. At the Very Rechichar’s NFL, Dempsey broke the record for the longest field goal by seven yards. In 1977, the NFL added a rule, informally known as the “Tom Dempsey Rule, “that “any shoe that a player wears with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.”
Samurai Rolle is a retired American football cornerback. He was born on August 10, 1976, and attended Miami Beach high school in Miami Beach, Florida. At Florida State University, where he attended college, he was part of the college football team. He played in 38 games with 24 starts and made 12 interceptions and 111 tackles in his four-year career. The Tennessee Oilers selected Samari Rolle in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft.
On March 7, 2005, Rolle signed for the Baltimore Ravens as an unrestricted free agent. In his first year at Baltimore, he recorded 41 tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception, and 11 pass deflections. In 2007, during the NFL season, Rolle missed five games due to an undisclosed illness. On November 21, 2007, he disclosed the illness as Epilepsy. Rolle is currently an assistant football coach at the Atlantic Community High school in Delray Beach, Florida.
David Garrard was born February 14, 1978, in East Orange, New Jersey, United States. He attended East Carolina University and Southern High school. As a Former American football quarterback, primarily with the Jacksonville Jaguars, David played in the National Football league for ten seasons. In 2002, he played college football and was selected by the Jaguars in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
On January 5, 2008, in the AFC wild card, Garrad led his team to a 31-29 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. On May 8, 2015, David Garrard signed a contract with Jacksonville Jaguars to retire as a team member officially. In 2004, Garrad was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease but underwent treatment. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Natalie Du Toit was born on January 29, 1984, in Capetown, South Africa. She attended the University of Capetown, Reddam house, and Wynberg Girls High school. Natalie Du Toit first competed internationally at 14, when she participated in the 1998 commonwealth games in Kuala Lumpur. At the Afro-Asian games, she won gold medals in the 800-meter freestyle. In the All-African games, she participated in the 800-meter freestyle and won a bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.
In February 2001, the doctors were forced to amputate her leg at the knee after this athlete was hit by a car while riding her scooter back to school after swimming practice. Natalie Du Toit was the first swimmer with a missing limb to participate in the Olympic game. In August 2002, she was awarded the western cape Golden Cross. This amazing disabled athlete earned gold medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games as well as the common health game. She was just one of two Paralympians to compete at the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. Plus, Natalie earned the Whan Youn Dai Achievement Award in 2008.
Arunima Sinha was born July 20, 1989, in Ambedkar Nagar, India. Sinha is an Indian mountain climber and sportswoman. However, she is also the first one-leg female to scale Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, Mount Kosciuszko, Mount Denali, and Mount Vinson. Arunima Sinha is also a seven-time Indian volleyball player. However, reading all of that, you wouldn’t think that Sinha lost her left leg when a train went over it. She had no choice but to get the leg amputated.
Arunima Sinha is now dedicated to social welfare and wants to open a free-spot academy for poor and disabled people. She donates all the financial aid she receives for this cause. As a result, this awesome athlete earned Padma Shri, which is the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 2015. On January 4, 2019, she climbed the seventh peak in Antarctica and became the world’s first female amputee to climb Mount Vinson.
This phenomenal athlete was born on August 18, 1972, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, United States. Amy Palmiero-Winters earned the best female award with a disability from ESPN during the ESPY Award. She deserves this great honor for overcoming her adversity! Amy Palmiero-Winters is a below-knee amputee who currently holds eleven world records in various events. In 2010, she was awarded the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States.
In 2006, Palmiero-Winters, with her new prosthetic, ran the New York marathon in 3:24 and broke the world record as a below-knee female amputee by 25 minutes. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Michael Edgson is a retired Canadian Paralympic Swimmer. He was born on May 6, 1969, in North Vancouver, Canada. He is a blind athlete who competes in the B3 classification. His visual impairment did not negatively affect him in swimming as it might in others. At the age of 14, he competed internationally in both disability and able-bodied swimming events. Many agree that Michael Edgson is one of the most successful Canadian athletes of all time.
This disabled athlete won four gold medals and a silver in 1992 in Barcelona. In 2006, he was inducted into the Terry Fox hall of fame and also became a recipient of the BC Disabled Athlete of the year award. Just a few years later, in 2009, Michael Edgson became the first Paralympic to be honored with a place in swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence. Finally, after retiring from international competition, Edgson became the financial director for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
Two moms adopted Tatyana McFadden at Sainton on April 29, 1989. Her diagnosis is spina bifida. She spent the first six years of her life in a Russian orphanage with virtually nothing, not even a wheelchair. This fantastic athlete was paralyzed from the waist down and unable to move. She learned to walk on her hands to meet up with other children. Today, Tatyana is an American Paralympic athlete of Russian descent competing in the category T54. She took up a variety of sports to strengthen her muscles, like swimming, gymnastics, and basketball. In fact, she has won twenty paralympic medals in multiple summer Paralympic Games.
She started competing at the age of eight in the 2004 summer Paralympics in Athens, Greece, where she won a silver medal in the women’s 100 meters. Tatyana McFadden became the first Athlete to win six gold medals at a championship during the 2013 IPC Athletics world championship in Lyon. In 2013, Tatyana won the Boston, Chicago, London, and New York marathons. By 2015 McFadden Tatyana had won the NYC marathon and broke the women’s course record by seven minutes and 20 seconds. Then, in October 2021, she won the Bank of Chicago marathon.
Baxter Humby is a former stuntman and Canadian kickboxer who gained the nickname “The One Armed Bandit.” He earned that moniker because he lost his right hand. It was amputated at birth because his umbilical cord became tangled around it. Baxter Humby is missing his arm from the elbow down, but he’d already learned his skills from a very young age. His father taught him boxing when he was around four years old, and then he started doing Tae Kwan Do at the age of 17.
In 2012, Baxter Humby was nominated for the ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability after he received several titles under his belt. He won the Canadian Super Welterweight Kickboxing Championship in 1996 and also won titles for the International Muay Thai Council World Super Welterweight Championship, WBC Super Welterweight National Championship, IKKC USA Kickboxing Championship, IMTC World Middleweight Championship, and IKBA International Kickboxing Championship.
Trischa Zorn is an American Paralympic swimmer who was born blind at birth. She is considered the most successful athlete in the Paralympic Games, with over 55 medals to her name. She has 41 fold medals, nine silver medals, and five bronze medals. In 2012, she was inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame. Even at the Barcelona Paralympic Games in 1992, she had the most individual medals, with ten gold medals and two silver.
In 2005, she was one of the eight athletes who was celebrated in Times Square at the New Year celebrations in New York City. Even though she’s now retired, she works as a legal professional for the Department of Veteran Affairs, continuing to help those who can’t fend for themselves. She went to college to study special education and also studied law at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
Esther Vergeer is a Dutch athlete who plays tennis while in a wheelchair. Doctors discovered that she had a build-up of excess fluids in her brain which caused a brain hemorrhage. They placed a shunt in her brain, but she continued to experience headaches and pain in her neck afterward. Eventually, she had a stroke a few years later and had another shunt placed in her brain. Doctors then discovered that this fantastic athlete had vascular myelopathy around her spinal cord. They performed surgery to remove it, but she was unable to move her legs.
People consider her the number one in women’s wheelchair singles, having won 48 major titles, 23 year-end championships, and seven Paralympic gold medals. She earned all those titles before her retirement at 41, so she accomplished a lot in her life! Esther Vergeer lost the use of her legs when she was about six years old, and she was taking a swimming lesson when she became dizzy and fell unconscious.
Sarah Reinertsen is a former track athlete and a Paralympic triathlete. She was born with a condition called proximal femoral focal deficiency, which is a bone growth disorder that affected her leg. Her leg was amputated above the knee when she was only seven years old. That didn’t stop her dreams, however. She was inspired by Paddy Rossbach, an amputee marathon runner, so she started her career in running at age 11. Sarah Reinertsen entered her first international track meet when she was only 13 and broke the 100m world record for female above-knee amputees.
She was also the first female leg amputee to participate in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Her first attempt in 2004 led to her being disqualified because she ended the bike portion of the course 15 minutes after the cut-off time. Sarah Reinertsen then entered the following year and ended the course just a little over 15 hours. In 2006, she won the Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award.
Jessica Long is a Russian-American who is also a Paralympic swimmer. She was born with fibular hemimelia, which is a congenital absence or shortening of the fibula. For this reason, both of her lower legs were amputated when she was 18 months old. Throughout her life, she learned to walk using prostheses, but that didn’t stop her from partaking in cheerleading, gymnastics, biking, rock climbing, and ice skating. She started swimming in her grandparents’ pool in 2002 and entered her first swimming competition in 2003.
Jessica then entered the 2004 Paralympic Games and won 3 gold medals in swimming. She was only 12 at the time and was the youngest competitor for the United States Paralympic Team. One of her gold medals was for the 100m freestyle, where she ended up beating both the Paralympic and world record by 0.19 seconds. This amazing disabled athlete has won over 50 championship medals for her activities in five Paralympic Games over the years.
Ellie Simmonds gained attention for her talents when she entered the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing. This famous lady is a Paralympian swimmer who earned two gold medals for Great Britain and was also the team’s youngest member, aged only 13. When Simmonds competed in home games in London, she again won two gold medals and even set a World Record for the 400-meter freestyle. When this athlete competed in the Rio Paralympics in 2016, she set another record for the 200-meter medley.
This phenomenal athlete was born with achondroplasia, a genetic condition affecting the body’s growth. It has an effect on the protein called fibroblast growth factor receptor, which is in control of bone growth in the cartilage in growth plates. As a result, a person with achondroplasia will have short arms and legs. Some treatment options include hormones to increase height, as well as surgery if there is an irregular curvature of the spine.
Kyle Maynard is a motivational speaker who was born without his limbs. He has a condition called congenital amputation, where the fibrous bands in the body prevent the development of the limbs. However, this didn’t stop Kyle from achieving whatever goal Maynard set his mind to. He is also a mixed martial arts athlete and the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics. This drive started at a very young age.
When this phenomenal athlete was in school, he started off participating in youth league football and played the position of nose tackle. By the time he entered high school, he had become interested in wrestling and even won 36 matches in his senior year. Kyle Maynard also brought these talents to college, joining the wrestling team for his college. However, he stopped sports soon after to start working on his book and pursue a speaking career.
Jim Abbott, also known as James Anthony Abbott, was born without a right hand. However, that didn’t stop him from seeking a major league baseball career. He started young, playing for his high school and then for his college team, the Michigan Wolverines, and his presence helped them to win two Big Ten Conference championships. Jim Abbott also played in the 1987 Pan American Games and the 1988 Summer Olympics, where the team won an unofficial gold medal for the United States.
Afterward, the California Angels selected him in the 1988 Major League Baseball draft. He started rotation as a rookie without having played a single minor league game, which went on to show his talent. In 1992, they traded him to the New York Yankees, where he pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Rocky Bleier was a halfback for the NFL Pittsburgh Steeler in 1968 and then again from 1970 to 1980. He was born and raised in Wisconsin and, as he grew older, took a liking to football and baseball. His dream of football followed him to college, where he played for Notre Dame. However, in 1968, Rocky Bleier was drafted into the Vietnam War. While on patrol on August 20th, a single bullet wounded him in the left thigh. While he was down, a grenade exploded nearby, sending shrapnel into his right leg when he tried to leap over it.
As a result, Rocky Bleier damaged his right foot, believing he would never play football again. However, after receiving a postcard from Art Rooney, the owner of the Steelers, he endured multiple surgeries. Plus, Rocky Bleier started physical therapy to regain the use of his legs and foot again. Although he managed to rejoin the Steelers, they kept him on injured reserve. It wasn’t until Super Bowl XIII, where he caught the touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw, that he finally got the recognition he deserved for all his hard work.
Erin Popovich is a three-time Paralympic swimmer for the United States. She has won 14 career Paralympic gold medals and 19 total. She, too, was born with achondroplasia, which reduced the growth of her limbs. Throughout her childhood, Erin Popovich wore braces to straighten her back and legs and had to undergo several surgeries. As a child, she was interested in sports and participated in horseback riding, basketball, and soccer. This disabled athlete joined the swim team when she was 12, and by age 15, she was competing in the 2000 Paralympic Games.
Erin Popovich has won three gold and three silver medals in her career. In her time in Sydney, she set four world records for the Paralympics, and they selected her as one of the 12012 Torchbearers for the 2002 Winter Olympics torch relay. At the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, Popovich won an additional four gold and two silver medals. Plus, she broke two world records and two Paralympic records in swimming.
Bethany Hamilton is an American professional surfer who endured a shark attack in 2003 and survived. The shark bit her left arm completely off, but that didn’t stop her from returning to professional surfing. The shark attack occurred when she was only 13. Bethany Hamilton went for a morning surf. However, while she was lying on her surfboard, talking with her best friend, a tiger shark attacked her, promptly biting off her arm. They promptly rushed her to the hospital, where she received treatment and survived despite losing almost 60% of her blood.
This traumatic event didn’t stop Bethany from getting back on her board and heading back out into the ocean. Only one month after her attack, she was back on the waves. Because of her disability, she had to have a custom board made that was longer and slightly thicker and also had a handle for her right arm. Only 26 days later, Bethany Hamilton entered her first major competition at the start of 2004.
Jim MacLaren, or James MacLaren, was a motivational speaker who won the Ironman triathlon after having his left leg amputated. He started out playing football and lacrosse for his college, Yale University, but his life would change by age 22. While riding his motorcycle, he was involved in an accident resulting in losing his left leg. Jim recovered and then went on to run the marathon in 3 hours and 16 minutes; he also completed the Ironman Kawaii in 10 hours and 42 minutes.
Fate wasn’t done with him yet, however. In 1993, while completing the bike portion of the Orange County Triathlon, he was struck by a van and then collided with a signpost. As a result of his injuries, Jim developed quadriplegia, meaning paralysis in all limbs. The community gathered funds to help MacLaren obtain a van he could drive with his hands. The funds raised were above what was necessary, and they used the rest to start the Challenged Athletes Foundation to help other athletes with disabilities.
Anthony Robles won the 2010-2011 NCAA wrestling championship, despite only having one leg. It’s unclear why he was only born with one leg, but throughout his life, he refused to wear a prosthetic leg for any reason. Because his leg was missing from his hip, Robles decided to take up other exercises to help strengthen the rest of his body. By the time he was in 6th grade, he had set a record for the most pushups by a school member. Anthony Robles definitely impressed everyone!
By the 8th grade, he had started wrestling after watching his older cousins practice. It wasn’t long before he’d developed tremendous grip strength, mostly due to crutches. And because he had an unusually high center of gravity, he could defend himself against any attack, allowing him to focus on more offensive moves to keep the competition on their toes. Feeling inspired by these incredible athletes with disabilities?
Melissa Stockwell is a swimmer, two-time Paralympic triathlete, and former US Army officer. She competed in three swimming events in the 2008 Summer Paralympics and won a bronze for the 2016 Paralympic Games in the triathlon event. During her sophomore year in college, Melissa Stockwell joined ROTC, and they assigned her to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Stationed as a first lieutenant, she was the first female soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq War.
The loss of her limb was due to a roadside bomb exploding, but she took all that courage and poured it into being a prosthetist for the military, as well as working on the Wounded Warrior Project from 2005 to 2014. Melissa Stockwell competed in several swimming events for the Paralympics and was the flag bearer at the closing ceremonies. Turning to the triathlon, she won the Women’s TRI-2 (above knee amputee) class and continued to defend her title in 2011 and 2012.