Five Paralympic athletes pushing their way to London
USA Paralympics is gearing up for the Paralympic games in London with nominations for Team USA, and as they roll out, we’re meeting some star disabled athletes from across the country — and our fair share of push girls, because many of the women athletes on the Paralympic team have some incredible stories to tell. The Summer Paralympics run from August 29 to September 9, and they’re going to be well worth tuning in to if you want to check out some of the best athletes in the world.
Double amputee (and recent ESPN body issue model — see above!) Oksana Masters is part of Team Bad Company, a pair of Paralympic rowers with their eyes on London. This child of Chernobyl experienced horrific abuse in a Ukrainian orphanage before being adopted and brought to the United States. She’s pushed through considerable obstacles to be at the top of her game in rowing, where she’s managed to find peace and feel like she has some measure of control over her life. She and her rowing partner, disabled veteran Robert Jones, have a weight disadvantage, but I’ll be rooting for them just the same.
Back in 1998, equestrian Rebecca Hart decided she wanted to go for Olympic gold. Ten years later, she was one place away from the podium in Beijing, and she’s poised for a second shot in London. She’s up against a lot; she was forced to change horses in 2011, and will be up on Lord Ludger, a horse who worked with able-bodied athletes prior to Hart. Hart has familial spastic paraplegia, which causes progressive lower-body weakness, but you wouldn’t know it to watch her and LoLu, as she calls her horse, at work in the ring. Did I mention she likes hiking, sailing and rock climbing on the side?
Jessica Long is a star swimmer who’ll definitely be one to watch at the London games. This double amputee has a fistful of gold medals from athletic events all over the world, including the Paralympic games in 2004 and 2008. A powerhouse in the water, Long’s swimming records are fierce and she’s been competing on an elite level from a young age; those three Olympic medals from Athens were earned at age 12. “Don’t tell people your dreams,” she says. “Show them.”
Jessica Galli, nominated to the track and field team, was paralyzed by a car accident at age seven, and she’s been pushing her way to records ever since. She holds world records in two events: the T53 400m, with a time of 54.88 seconds, and the T53 800, with a time of 1:49.82. Keep an eye out for her on the track at London, but don’t blink, or you’ll probably miss her.
Angela Madsen is a disabled veteran who qualified for the track and field team by setting a shot put record with a throw of more than 30 feet. This Marine also coaches other disabled veterans interested in sports, remembering her own battle with depression after the injury that limited her mobility. She says adaptive sports help her connect with people, and helping other veterans brings back fond memories of the camaraderie in the military. She’s also an accomplished rower!
These are just a few of the disabled women representing the United States at the Paralympic games. Get ready to see some fireworks as they go up against noted competitors from other nations — and undoubtedly break a few more records along the way.
If you can’t stand up, stand out! PUSH GIRLS airs on Mondays at 10P.