My fellow blogger Paolo and his friends have a web site ( betarista.com ) that deals with challenges of all kinds, so here is his story involving another handicapped athlete, Aimee Mullins, who is a double amputee and has overcome her physical limitations. She is not only a competitive athlete, but also an actress, fashion model and motivational speaker. In her recent TED speech below, however, she stated that she wasn’t disabled. “From an identity standpoint, what does it mean to have a disability? Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do. Nobody calls her disabled.”
You can read more about Aimee on her web site , and here are some excerpts from her biography:
Aimee first received worldwide media attention as an athlete. Born without fibulae in both legs, Aimee was told she would never walk, and would likely spend the rest of her life using a wheelchair. In an attempt for an outside chance at increased mobility, doctors amputated both her legs below the knee on her first birthday. The decision paid off. By age two, she had learned to walk on prosthetic legs, and spent her childhood doing the usual athletic activities of her peers: swimming, biking, softball, soccer, and skiing, always alongside “able-bodies” kids.
After graduating from high school and working at the Department of Defense, she rediscovered her love of competitive sports. While a dean’s list student at the prestigious School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, she set her sights on making the US Team for the 1996 Atlanta Games. She trained with track coach, Frank Gagliano, and became the first amputee in history, male or female, to compete in the NCAA, doing so on Georgetown’s nationally-ranked Division I track team. She was the first person to be outfitted with woven carbon-fiber prostheses that were modeled after the hind legs of a cheetah. Then she went on to set World Records in the 100 meter, the 200 meter, and the long jump, sparking a frenzy over the radical design of her prototype sprinting legs. The essential design of those legs are now the world standard in sports prosthetics.
After a profile in Life magazine showcased her in the starting blocks at Atlanta, Aimee soon landed a 10-page feature in the inaugural issue of Sports Illustrated for Women, which led to her accepting numerous invitations to speak at international design conferences. This introduction to a discourse relating to aesthetic principles fueled her interest in issues relating to body image, and how fashion advertising impacted societal notions of femininity and beauty.
In 1999, Aimee made her runway debut in London at the invitation of celebrated fashion designer, Alexander McQueen. This changed her view of her legs into body sculpture, because she wore dark brown wooden legs with carvings of grapes and magnolias. Of course the audience thought she was wearing boots.
Aimee now has at least 12 different prosthetic legs, some simulating “normal” caucasian legs and others made of clear polyurethane used for bowling balls that she calls her glass legs. One is like jellyfish tentacles, another like dirt, a third like a cheetah’s, with spots and paws. These different legs can result in five different heights, from 5’8″ to 6’1,” which led to one friend saying that it was unfair she could grow tall so easily and look so elegant. No wonder Aimee declares that she is not disabled and has capitalized on her differences. Amazing, inspiring, revolutionary…