Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, is International Day of Disabled Persons. The day has been honoured by the United Nations since 1992, and is intended to promote awareness and understanding of the issues that individuals with disabilities face. The emphasis is on dignity and integration into society, as is the right of every person no matter what their physical abilities are. We think that this idea is as worth celebrating as a big win in online pokies is, which is why we’re honouring some of the most iconic para athletes right here.
With the Paralympics coming up in 2020, the finest sportspeople in the world are deep into their preparations for the event. Para athletes in particular are reflecting on the legacy they want to leave, and the kind of role models they want to be. By showing what they can accomplish they inspire not only others with disabilities, but everyone who learns their story.
Natalie Du Toit- Swimming
Du Toit’s dreams of Olympic glory took a knock following a horrific car accident in 2001 in which she lost her leg. Through her own determination and talent, as well as the support of those around her, she triumphed over her adverse circumstances and became the third-ever amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Oz Sanchez – Hand Cycling
Sanchez has had a difficult life, but he is living proof that you don’t have to let your situation define who you are and what you do. He enlisted in the United States Marines to avoid the gang life he was surrounded by, and in this way he stayed on the straight and narrow for 6 years. When a motorcycle accident left him paralysed, he responded by becoming a medal-winning Paralympian.
Jim Abbott – Baseball
Abbot was born without a right hand, but he didn’t let that minor inconvenience stand in the way of his Major League Baseball career. He’s considered one of the all-time greatest left-handed pitchers, and took home a gold medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Natalia Partyka – Table Tennis
Partyka was born in Poland in 1989, without a right forearm. She became the world’s youngest Paralympian at age 11, and competes against able-bodied athletes in her chosen discipline of Table Tennis. To date, the well-decorated player has taken home 4 gold medals and 1 silver.
Melissa Stockwell – Swimming & Triathlon
If you’re looking for the embodiment of “overachiever”, Stockwell is it. While serving as second lieutenant in Iraq, she lost a leg when a roadside bomb exploded. She was the first US soldier to lose a limb during active combat, and was later given a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for her service. Clearly not one to say no to a challenge or sit on her laurels, she then went on to win 3 Paratriathlon World Championships.
Rick Hoyt – Cycling
Rick Hoyt has cerebral palsy, so he has to use bicycles and wheelchairs that have been specially adapted when he competes in marathons, triathlons and other events. His father, Dick, has always been supportive and takes part in the contests and championships with his son.
Jessica Long – Swimming
Long is a thirteen-time Paralympic swimming champion who was born in Russia and adopted as a baby. A congenital condition called fibular hemimelia meant that she was born without lower legs, although she hasn’t let that stop her from achieving her goals. She’s on her way to the 2020 Games in Tokyo, where she will continue to reach for her dreams.
Anthony Robles – Wrestling
Robles was the NCAA 2010.2011 world champion in the 125-pound weight division, despite being born without a right leg. The native of La Mirada, California refuses to wear a prosthetic and chronicled his inspiring story in a 2012 autobiography titled “Unstoppable: From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion”.
Bethany Hamilton – Surfing
Hamilton was a surfer before she lost her left arm to a shark in 2003, and remained a surfer afterwards. The only real difference is that she achieved even more post-2003, including placing first in the 2005 National Scholastic Surfing Association Competition.
Kyle Maynard – MMA & Climbing
Maynard has publicly said that he believes anyone can do anything, and has gone on to put his money where his mouth is through his own achievements. The decorated Mixed Martial Artist broke new records when he became the world’s first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro without the use of prosthetics. In case that isn’t clear enough for you, that means that he crawled up!
Alana Nichols – Skiing & Basketball
A snowboarding accident in 2000 paralysed Nichols from the waist down. Since then she has not only won 2 gold Alpine Skiing medals, but has also played Basketball at the Paralympic level.
Tom Dempsey – American Football
Legendary Footballer Dempsey had no digits on his right side when he was born – no fingers on his hand and no toes on his foot. Today he is remembered as one of the NFL’s greatest kickers, so it seems fair to say his birth condition didn’t slow him down.