Incredible achievements of Paralympians
The fifteenth Summer Paralympic Games, a major international multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities, have finished just hours ago. In the morning of the 19th of September, I read this BBC article: “Rio Paralympics 2016 – GB seal second place in table with 147 medals and 64 golds”
What an great achievement for the GB Paralympians! But it is not only the GB athletes I wanted to write about in this article. I wanted to highlight the fact that every single Rio Paralympics 2016 participant focused on their abilities, not their limitations – whether they have won or not.
Usually, I do not read sports news, but I simply had to follow the Paralympic athletes’ incredible achievements. It is quite astonishing how people with disabilities have been able to overcome their functional limitations to become such successful athletes.
Transitioning from a dis-abled person to a successful athlete means that these admirable people had to choose to focus on their strengths and on what they can do – not on what they cannot do. Some of the Paralympians were born with a disability and some acquired disability as a result of a life changing injury or illness. I can imagine that at times, each of them felt down and limited by their condition; but I can also imagine that at some point, each of them decided: “I CAN ACHIEVE”.
These athletes trained for years, and each training day was one little step closer to bringing them to their dream – competing in the Paralympics and achieving incredible results against all the odds.
They chose to fight against their disability, their diagnosis and all the things that their doctors possibly told them they could never do.
Amongst these great athletes and high achievers are Hannah Cockroft, Ahmed Kelly, Dame Sarah Storey and Alex Zanardi.
Hannah Cockroft
Hannah Cockroft (oh how I wish I’d asked for a picture with Hannah when I came to her talk at one of the Irwin Mitchell’s conferences!) was born with cerebral palsy. After suffering two cardiac arrests at birth, she was left with a disability that affected her balance and mobility, problems with her fine motor skills, weak hips and deformed feet and legs. Her parents were told that she would never be able to walk, talk, do anything for herself or live past her teenage years.
Hannah is a British wheelchair racer specialising in sprint distances in the T34 classification. Read here about Hannah Cockroft winning 800m to claim third gold in Rio:

Ahmed Kelly
Ahmed Kelly was born with a double arm and leg deficiency. He started swimming in 2008. Ahmed Kelly came seventh in the men’s 50m breaststroke SB3 final and helped Australia finish sixth in the mixed 4x50m freestyle 20 points relay final. Ahmed competed in Rio Paralympics this year.
Read here about Ahmed Kelly’s remarkable journey to the Paralympics:

Dame Sarah Storey
Dame Sarah Storey was born without a functioning left hand. She is a British road and track racing cyclist and former swimmer, multiple gold medal winner at the Paralympic Games in both sports, and three times British (able-bodied) national track champion.
Read here about Dame Sarah Storey winning the Great Britain’s 60th gold of Games in the Rio Paralympics:

Alex Zanardi
On Sept. 15, 2001, the Italian athlete Alex Zanardi’s car was struck hard by another as he tried to merge back onto the track from pit row. Both of his legs were amputated above the knee.
Despite this, he captured a gold medal at the Rio Paralympics.

These stories of four wonderful people are just some examples of courage, strength and incredible winning attitudes. To me, all of the Paralympic athletes’ achievements are a great example to others that dreams, however impossible they may seem, can really be achieved.
Their achievements send us a strong message that
a disability does not equal impairment.
I wrote this article because I believe that by focusing on their abilities, the Paralympic athletes are an inspiration for all of us. They prove by their own example that great things can be achieved, despite health limitations and disabilities.
Katya Halsall, Director
Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant
Sickness Absence Manager
Mathesons Trained Functional Capacity Evaluator
VOC-REHAB UK / Eclectic Human Solutions
T:   01942 375 880
M: 07854 174 683
Facebook: Eclectic Human Solutions
Twitter: @HalsallKatya / @EHS_VocRehab
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Sources: BBC News & Wikipedia. Photos: BBC Sport, Mirror, News & Star & BMWblog