starring Angela Rockwood, Tiphany Adams, Auti Angel, Mia Schaikewitz and Chelsie Hill

Crossing the finish line on PUSH GIRLS

We got to see not one but two of our fabulous strong women pushing for the finish line this week, bringing some serious push girl spirit to competition against able-bodied athletes in the pool and on a 5k marathon. Mia and Tiphany both had their ups and downs, but they accomplished something important: They proved to themselves that they had what it took to finish. And sometimes, proving something to yourself is the hardest thing to do.

Physical fitness has been a thread for Mia and Tiphany throughout this season; remember how we saw them working out in the very first episode? These ladies are seriously ripped; you have to be to push a manual chair, especially in the rough environment of the Los Angeles streets. It’s not surprising to see Tiphany astounding an able-bodied fitness class with her muscular upper body or Mia yanking the weight of herself and her chair up over a curb one-handed.

This week, they took their strength to competition. There’s a common assumption that people with disabilities aren’t involved in sports, or that if they are, they only play adaptive sports, competing against other people with disabilities. As Oscar Pistorius demonstrated at this year’s Olympics, however, what true athletes need is the will to compete, not a body that matches the rest of the competition. And some disabled athletes want their fair shot at open competition with the best, period, rather than competing in segregated environments.

For Mia, swimming is something very intimate and personal, and seeing her get back in the pool a few weeks ago was exciting. With her first competition this week, the stakes were higher, and she was probably her toughest judge, expecting her body to perform the way it did 17 years ago when she was in the peak of her training. Watching her fight to the very last was a reminder that all bodies change, not just after acquiring disabilities but as a result of aging, changing lifestyles and just plain life. I hope Mia sticks with swimming because it means so much to her, and I think she has the drive to be an incredible competitor again if she’s willing to go the distance.

Tiphany, on the other hand, decided to take on a brand new challenge, which is just like her. She’s always looking for the next hill to conquer, and she’s especially driven to upend assumptions about what people with disabilities are supposed to be able to do. She hadn’t run in a 5K before, so she decided she needed to, and once she made that decision, she got cracking with her training. Along with big sister Auti, I was so proud of her as she crossed that finish line, and I suspect it’s the first of many races for her.

Favorite quote, from Mia: “Because it’s harder now, I feel I’ve accomplished more by doing it.”

If you can’t stand up, stand out! PUSH GIRLS airs on Mondays at 10P.

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