Woman Who Went Far Beyond A Person’s Limitation To Achieve Greatness.
Athletes show a great deal of pride while having the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. That pride is extended – possibly even further – when they are able to compete in the Paralympics because of some physical disability. Here are 13 stories of athletes competing in both.
1. She died in June of 2006, but Neroli Susan Fairhall was a great example of going far beyond a person’s limitations and achieving greatness. When she was 25 in 1969, she was in a terrible motorcycle accident, paralyzing her from the waist down.
Sixteen years later, however, she competed in women’s archery as the first disabled athlete to partake in the Olympic Games, which was held in Los Angeles.
Two years prior, in 1982, she was also the first disabled athlete to compete in the Commonwealth Games, and even won the gold medal over all the other able-bodied competitors.
2. In 1988, Pal Szekeres was part of the team that won a bronze medal in fencing at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. But three years later, he was injured in a bus accident, requiring him to use a wheelchair.
Amazingly, he went on to compete in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and won gold, and two gold in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
He continued and won bronze medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008, when he was ranked third in the world. He was the first disabled person to compete in both the Olympics and the Paralympic games.
3. Paola Fantato became the first person to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year, 1996, in Atlanta, where she took a bronze in women’s individual archery at the Olympics and a gold in women’s team archery at the Paralympics.
She has been confined to a wheelchair ever since she was 8 after suffering from polio.
4. Marla Runyan, who is legally blind, won four gold medals in the long jump and three races at the 1992 Summer Paralympics, and placed eighth in the 1500-meter run in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics.
And even though blind, Runyan was the highest finisher by an American woman. She even holds IPC world records in the 400-meter, 800-meter, 1500-meter, 5000-meter, the high jump, long jump and pentathlon.
5. Italian Orazio Fagone competed in the 1988, 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics in hockey and speed skating. But in mid-1997 his life changed drastically when a motorcycle accident resulted in his right leg being amputated.
He was confined to a wheelchair but kept practicing ice sledge hockey, and was picked to be a part of the 2006 Paralympic team. He was the third Winter Olympian to also compete in the Paralympics.
6. Although Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka was born without a right hand and forearm, she not only competes against those with disabilities, but also against those who are not disabled.
When she was 11, she competed at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, becoming the youngest ever Paralympian. She also competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics AND the Paralympics the same year.
She is ranked No. 68 in world rankings and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Rebirth of Poland in 2008 for her contributions to the sport of table tennis.
7. South African swimmer Natalie du Toit won gold medals during the 2004 Paralympic and Commonwealth games, swimming without the aid of a prosthetic limb. And she was one of two Paralympians to compete at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
She lost her left leg in 2001 after she was hit by a car while riding a scooter to her home after practice. She also was the first athlete to carry flags during ceremonies at both olympics in the same year.
8. South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius lost both of his legs through amputation when he was only 11 months old. He was the first to compete at the Paralympics and Olympics in sprint events.
In 2011, he won a non-disabled world track medal at the World Championships in Athletics, and he was the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics.
These great feats are possibly – and unfortunately — overshadowed by Pistorius fatally shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day in 2013. He told police he mistook her for an intruder in the couple’s bathroom.
9. Assunta Legnante, of Italy, was born with congenital glaucoma in both eyes and in 2009 she lost sight in her right eye and her left retina deteriorated. But she competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the Paralympics in 2012 in the shot put.
At several championships, she continued to set records. At the London Paralympics, she broke her own world record by heaving the shot put 16.74 meters.
10. Ilke Wyludda, a German discus thrower, set many records and was the junior world champion from 1989 to 1991. Amazingly, during that time she won 41 consecutive events until she was finally beaten at the World Championships.
She placed 9th in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In 2011, she lost her right leg due to Sepsis, but the very next year, the completed at the London Paralympics.
She was the first German athlete to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics.
11. Before becoming paralyzed from a 2003 car accident, Zahra Nemati competed regularly in Taekwondo. After the accident, she entered the archery competition for the 2012 Summer Paralympics and won a gold for individual and a bronze for team.
She also qualified for both the 2016 Summer Olympics and Summer Paralympics. She is the first Iranian woman to win gold at either Olympics.
12. A bad birthing by Australian doctors caused Melissa Tapper to be born with brachial plexus, having the nerves between her neck and right shoulder torn significantly.
But she competed against able-bodied competitors in table tennis since she was 8, evening making the Australian team when she was just 14. She was ranked the nation’s best junior athlete at the age of 18.
She won the bronze at the 2012 London Paralympics Games and competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Games.
13. Pepo Puch, competed at the 2004 Summer Olympics in the individual equestrian event. Four years later, an accident made him a paraplegic.
The Austrian went on to compete in the 2012 Summer Paralympics, winning two medals – a gold and a bronze.
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