Posts Tagged inspirational athletes

Nico Calabria Inspires With Just One Leg

Meet Nico Calabria, a senior at Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts who was born with one leg. But despite only having a left leg, Calabria is co-captain of the school’s junior varsity soccer team along with the varsity wrestling team. In a game against Newton South, Calabria scored one of Concord’s nine goals with an amazing volley that would have been difficult for every player on the field.

Concord-Carlisle was given a corner kick and Calabria stationed himself on crutches by the far post just outside the box. The ball sailed past the goal where Calabria planted his crutches, turned his body and connected with a scissor-kick to put the ball in the back of the net.

But if you think that highlight is amazing, you should probably check out the documentary called “Nico’s Challenge,” a story about how Calabria climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at age 13. Kilimanjaro. 13 years old. One leg.

In 2007, he went on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show and explained that he climbed the mountain to raise money for kids in Africa who need wheelchairs.

If the goal just didn’t do it for you (not sure how that’s possible), check out Calabria’s domination in wrestling below:

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Randy Snow And Wheelchair Tennis

I included the videos above to give you an idea of what wheelchair tennis looks like. One big difference is that two bounces are allowed, and the second one does NOT have to be within the lines. The video of Shingo Kunieda (winner of 13 Grand Slams) demonstrates at 1:08 how dexterous and fast a wheelchair tennis champion has to be.

There was a very moving, teary speech at the Hall of Fame 2012 Induction Ceremony by Randy Snow’s father. He described a son who loved athletics, was a state-ranked tennis player, but was paralyzed at 16, when a 1000-pound bale of hay fell on his back and paralyzed Randy from the waist down. At college he formed a wheelchair basketball team, did wheelchair racing, and then became the best wheelchair tennis player in the United States.

Randy won the US Open Men’s Singles wheelchair tennis championships 10 years, he won six US doubles championships, he won gold medals in tennis wheelchair singles and doubles paralympic games in 1992. And he also won basketball and racing awards, all of which you can see here .

In 1980 he connected with Marilyn Hamilton, who was disabled from a hang-gliding crash, and had developed the aluminum frame, modular Quickie wheel chair that Randy adopted for all his sports. After Randy died in 2010, Marilyn wrote, “He was the right man at the right time for wheelchair sports—a tenacious pioneer who opened doors, pushed limits, inspired some of the world’s greatest athletes, and created awareness that positively changed the attitudes of many in the able-bodied world.”

Wheelchair tennis founder Brad Parks, who is also in the Newport Hall of Fame and was at the ceremony last week, said this about Randy in 2010: “Randy was like a sponge—he just wanted to get better at everything he did…He was one of the most influential wheelchair athletes of all time.” Brad is in the video below.

By the 1990s, Randy had firmly established himself as a living legend. At the 1996 Paralympic Games, he took the Paralympic torch from President Clinton at the White House. Later, he took a torch from President George W. Bush to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He won accolades from four presidents—Ford, Reagan, Bush (Sr.) and Clinton—and earned a master’s degree in psychology.

Randy started his own motivational company in 1999. He called it NOXQS, “no excuses.” He became a Fortune 500 speaker, wrote several books, aspired to be a college professor and challenged listeners with such statements as “Change is inevitable; direction is choice,” and “Life takes a 100-percent, able-bodied mind to succeed.”

You can learn more here about Randy’s Push Forward Foundation and also his motivational videos, one of which is below, so you can enjoy his energy and some ideas for success. I think I saw a quote by him in the Hall of Fame that said, “I did not have a disability, but an opportunity.” or “My disability turned into a great opportunity. Either way, this remarkable man became a great athlete, leader and influence.

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Inspirational Runner And A Magic Moment

Here is an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy whose achievements—to keep running and to push though his physical pain—inspire his friends to cheer him on during a class field day. And now he inspires us to cheer and work harder ourselves…because if he can do it… Excerpts below by Barbara Rodrguez:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—When John Blaine realized 11-year-old Matt Woodrum was struggling through his 400-meter race at school in central Ohio, the physical education teacher felt compelled to walk over and check on the boy. “Matt, you’re not going to stop, are you?” he encouragingly asked Woodrum, who has cerebral palsy. “No way,” said the panting, yet determined, fifth-grader.

Almost spontaneously, dozens of Woodrum’s classmates converged alongside him, running and cheering on Woodrum as he completed his second and final lap under the hot sun. The race on May 16, captured on video by Woodrum’s mother, Anne Curran, is now capturing the attention of strangers on the Internet, many who call the boy and his classmates an inspiration to be more compassionate toward each other.

Woodrum said he had a few moments where he struggled. “I knew I would finish it,” he said, “but there were a couple of parts of the race where I really felt like giving up.”

It was his fourth race of the day, and one he didn’t have to run. Only a handful of students opted to give it a try, and Curran said her son doesn’t exclude himself from anything, playing football and baseball with friends and his two brothers. “He pushes through everything. He pushes through the pain, and he pushes through however long it may take to complete a task,” she said. “He wants to go big or go home.”

“The kids will tell you that Matt never gives up on anything that he sets out to do,” Read the rest of this entry »

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Diana Nyad Is Swimming Right Now For Another Open-Water Record

Here is an inspiring article about Diana Nyad, a 61-year-old American endurance swimmer who just jumped into Cuban waters yesterday evening and set off in a bid to become the first person to swim across the Florida Straits without the aid of a shark cage.

Nyad said it has been a lifelong dream and she hopes her feat, if successful, will inspire people to live vigorously during their golden years. She first had a go at this crossing as a 28-year-old back in 1978, when she swam inside a steel shark cage for about 42 hours before sea currents hammering her off course put an end to that attempt.

The following year she set a world record for open-water swimming without a shark cage, charting 102.5 miles (165 kilometers) from the Bahamas to Florida before retiring from competitive endurance swimming. This distance record for non-stop swimming without a wetsuit still stands today. She also broke numerous world records, including the 45-year-old mark for circling Manhattan Island (7 hrs, 57 min) in 1975.

Still, she said the aborted Cuba attempt stuck with her all these years, and upon turning 60, she started thinking about a comeback. “Until a year ago, I hadn’t swum a stroke for 31 years,” Nyad said on her website.

“Swimmer’s burnout gripped me to the point that I could have sworn I would never, ever swim a lap again in my life. But approaching 60 last year threw me into the existential angst of wondering what I had done with my life. I felt choked by how little time seemed left. I started swimming a few laps, just to take some pressure off the knees from all the other activities I enjoy.”

For the record to be considered valid, Nyad will have to make the swim without a wetsuit. Her crew will navigate, monitor her health and provide nourishment. But she is not allowed to touch the boat, nor can her helpers hold her, until she emerges fully onto dry land. Even that could be a challenge in Florida’s mangrove thickets, exhausted and with no land legs after 2½ days of swimming.

She plans to stop every 45 minutes for 20-second hydration breaks—water, juice, sports drinks. Every 90 minutes she’ll rest for 2 minutes and nibble on bread or a spoonful of peanut butter.

You can follow her progress with a CNN crew that is in a chase boat by going here .

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Cyclist Damian Alfonso Wins Races Without Forearms

Damian Alfonso wins bicycle races without forearms

Here is a story that is inspirational and upsetting about a Cuban cyclist, Damian Lopez Alfonso, who lost his forearms 20 years ago, when he was 13, in a horrible electrical accident. Shortly afterward, needing a bike to get around, he started racing…superfast.

Everybody knows Damian,” said Jesus Perara. “He rides the bike so fast, with no hands, it’s unbelievable.”

Indeed, nearly everyone who rides with Mr. Alfonso has been impressed by his endurance and bike handling.

“If he had never had this problem, I don’t know if he would have excelled at this sport, whether he would have had that tenacity,” said Mr. Perara’s wife, Nanci Modica, who first met Mr. Alfonso in 2002 while racing in Havana and is among his biggest supporters in New York. “He’s got something special that he can just dig right through the pain.”

In the video on the site, Damian says, “I am not afraid of anything. I have never been afraid of anything…Now the future is the (para)Olympics…The expectation is winning medals. Winning means always going forward…Life for me is a race. Every day that goes by is a day lost. That day never comes back. That helps you go through life, yes.”

This is another story of a human who has overcome the odds, the handicaps, his enormous struggles to achieve something you could never imagine. If he can do that, surely we ordinary mortals can reach our little victories by overcoming insignificant hurdles…right?

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Helene Neville’s Amazing 2500-Mile Run Across America

From 1921 to 2008, there have been 4,102 ascents to the summit of Mt. Everest by about 2,700 individuals. Since 1928, only 212 people have crossed the country on foot! (running or walking) Only one person has ever run the transcontinental southern route, during the hot, humid conditions of summer.

Helene Neville, her journey entitled “One on the Run,” set foot on a 2,520-mile run on May 1st, 2010 and completed her run on August 1, 2010—93 days! Helene is now the first person to run the southern route in the summer and the first woman ever to complete this course.

Helene Neville—incredible athlete and inspiration

Helene plans to run from Canada to Mexico in March 2011, north to south, all within the same calendar year.

If you go to her web site , you will find this amazing excerpt from her bio there: Helene has been a nurse and a fitness coach for the past 28 years. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1993, conquering the disease in 2001 after overcoming three brain surgeries, which she suffered between 1991 and 1997.

In July 1998, Helene’s doctors told her she would never recover. It was Helene’s persistent attitude that drove her to set goals in her life. She decided then to accomplish one more goal in her life, and she began training to run a 26.2-mile marathon.

Helene entered and completed her first marathon and has completed 25 more since. Among them was the London Marathon, where her finish qualified her to compete in the world famous Boston Marathon. Qualifying for Boston was a proud step for Helene in overcoming her extreme health obstacles.

Helene finishes her 2010 Run Across America—8/1/10

Helene’s most notable marathon challenge was the Fox Cities Marathon held in Fox Cities, Wisconsin. Helene’s close friend, Don Owens, who lost his sight twenty years earlier, asked Helene if she would help him train to run a marathon. After sixteen weeks of training, Helene and Don completed the marathon together, tethered to each other with a bungee cord.

Helene wrote me that “I was always an athlete. In high school and college I ran sprints and middle distances. In 1998 I took up marathons after the doctors gave up on me. I also competed in two bodybuilding competitions and climbed Mt. Whitney.

“I decided to run across the country to mark my 50th birthday, to promote the book Nurses In Shape that I authored and to get nurses healthy, so they can be more credible as they instruct patients to incorporate fitness and proper nutrition in their lives.

It was a run in part to deliver the message on foot to make a bigger impact. I stopped and spoke with hundreds of nurses at 30 hospitals along the way. My mission is: To change the health of our nation, we must first change those who care for the ill. Health care practitioners should be leading by example. I intend to change the face of nursing, so my profession can be that much more credible while we educate our patients on diet and exercise. Nurses are millions in numbers, so we can have a huge voice in changing the health and wellness of our society. If we don’t, in the end, we are literally bearing the extra load!

I will continue to run in every state to get this message to nurses, so they can become better ambassadors and teachers of health. Additionally, if we can get the school nurses to set examples, we might begin to see a decline in the epic climb of childhood obesity.

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