There are many athletes who have made great and overwhelming achievements with their strength and competitive spirit despite their disabilities. They are a source of inspiration for many. This SportsAspire article tells you about some famous disabled athletes.
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Masudur Rahman Baidya was the world’s first physically handicapped swimmer to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar.
There are many athletes who have overcome their physical limitations and accomplished great feats in their sport. They have emerged successful against all odds in life and set records that shall inspire generations. Some of these athletes had birth defects that resulted in the loss of their limbs. Others suffered from paralysis or injuries after accidents. However, these misfortunes did not stop them from realizing their dreams. Their disability did not hold them back. They overcame these obstacles and turned themselves into some of the best athletes in the world. They have made us proud with their spirit and performance.
Famous Athletes With Disabilities
14 career Paralympic gold medal winner, Erin Popovich was born on June 29, 1985. She is a Paralympic swimmer. She was born with achondroplasia, a disorder that restricted the growth of her limbs. However, that did not make her give up her interest in sports. In childhood, she played soccer and basketball. She won three gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000. During the Summer Paralympics in 2004 held in Athens, she won seven gold medals. In 2005, she won the first ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability. At the Summer Paralympics in 2008 held in Beijing, she won four golds. In 2009, she again won the ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability.
Eleanor May Simmonds, a Paralympian swimmer, was born on November 11, 1994 in Walsall in England. She was born with achondroplasia (dwarfism). She made her Paralympic debut in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing and won two gold medals at the age of 13. Her other achievements include five European golds in 2009, four World Championship titles in 2010 and two European gold medals in 2011.
James E. MacLaren, the former Yale football player, was born on April 13, 1963 in St. Louis in the U.S. He was the world’s fastest amputee triathlete at one time. He made some record-breaking achievements in the marathon and Ironman triathlon after having his left leg amputated below the knee following a New York city bus accident in 1985 while he was on his bike. MacLaren also worked as a motivational speaker and author. He was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2005 ESPY Awards presentation. He died on August 31, 2010.
Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius, a South African sprint runner, was born on November 22, 1986 in Sandton, Johannesburg. His legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old as he was born without a fibula in both legs. He can run successfully with a pair of prosthetic legs. He has competed in championships for below-knee amputees and for able-bodied athletes. He became the first amputee to win an able-bodied world track medal. He has also won several gold and silver medals in his sports career. He is well-known as the fastest man with no legs and was nicknamed as the Blade Runner.
Bethany Hamilton is an American professional surfer who was born on February 8, 1990 in Hawaii in the U.S. She lost her left arm in a shark attack in 2003. However, the incident did not stop her from pursuing her goals. Bethany resumed surfing after a short time and won her first National title. She wrote about her experience in the 2004 autobiography, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. Since then, she has become a source of inspiration for many.
Jessica Tatiana Long
Jessica Tatiana Long, a professional swimmer, was born on February 29, 1992 in Russia. She was adopted from a Russian orphanage. Both her legs were amputated below the knee when she was 18 months old, as she was born without fibulas, ankles, heels, and many other bones in her feet. She has been involved in sports such as gymnastics, basketball, ice skating, running, and others. She is now the world record holder in several Paralympic events.
James Anthony Abbott
James Anthony Abbott, a former baseball pitcher, was born on September 19, 1967 in Michigan, US. Born without a right hand, he was named as the best amateur athlete and the top amateur baseball player in the nation in 1987 after winning the James E. Sullivan Award. He played 10 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Milwaukee Brewers from 1989 to 1999.
Sarah Reinertsen was born on May 22, 1975 in New York, US. She is a paratriathlete and former Paralympic track athlete. One of the world’s renowned sports figures, Sarah was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, which is a bone growth disorder. Her left leg was amputated above the knee when she was seven years old. She was the first female leg amputee to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, and the first female leg amputee to run in The Great Wall Marathon in China in 2011.
Amy Palmiero-Winters was born on August 18, 1972 in Pennsylvania, US. Her left leg was amputated below the knee after a motorcycle accident in 1994. Amy holds a portfolio of many world records in marathons, triathlons, and ultra-marathons. In 2010, she won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States and the ESPN ESPY Award as the top female athlete with a disability in the world.
Mallory Weggemann was born in March 26, 1989 in Kansas, US. She was a competitive swimmer since the age of seven. She became paralyzed from her waist down after receiving an epidural injection to treat her back pain. However, she was undeterred by her condition and broke many world records and won multiple gold medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, she was awarded the ESPN ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete with a Disability by ESPN for her outstanding performance at the 2010 World Championships.
Melissa Stockwell was born on April 23, 1980 in Michigan, US. She is an American paratriathlete, former Paralympic swimmer and U.S. Army officer. She was the first female soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq War. Her left leg got completely injured during a roadside bomb explosion in Baghdad. She was given the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart award for her service in Iraq. She was the first Iraq veteran chosen for the Paralympics and was named USAT Paratriathlete of the Year in 2010.
Anthony Robles, one of the most accomplished wrestlers in Arizona, was born on July 20, 1988 in California, US. He was born with one leg and won the 2010-11 NCAA individual wrestling championship at 125 pounds. He wrote the book, Unstoppable: From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion. In January 2012, Robles was awarded as the 2011 Most Courageous Athlete by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association.
Arunima Sinha (born in 1988) is the first female amputee and the first Indian to climb Mount Everest. She was a national level volleyball player. She lost one leg when she was pushed from a running train by thieves and it had to be amputated below the knee.
Natalia Partyka was born on July 27, 1989 in Poland. She was born without a right hand and forearm. She is a tennis player who takes part in competitions for able-bodied athletes and for athletes with disabilities. She won her first international table tennis medal in 1999 at the disabled World Championships. She became the world’s youngest Paralympian when she competed at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney at the age of 11.
The all-star and endurance athlete, Jason P. Lester, was born in 1974 in Arizona, US. He is the first athlete with a disability to complete the Ultraman World Championships. He is also the author of the book, Running on Faith. He was the 2009 ESPY Award winner for Best Male Athlete with a Disability. Lester’s right arm was paralyzed when he was twelve years old. It happened after he was hit by a speeding car while on his bicycle. However, he continued to play sports with the use of only one arm.
H. Boniface Prabhu
The quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player, Harry Boniface Prabhu, was born on May 14, 1972 in Bangalore, India. He was one of the pioneers of the sport in India. He also won a medal at the 1978 World Championships. He was granted the Padma Shree award by the Government of India in 2014. When he was four, a wrong lumbar puncture in a clinic made him a quadriplegic for life.
Other Athletes with Disabilities
Mixed martial artist
Natalie du Toit
Mixed martial artist
Football, Baseball player
Water Polo player and Swimmer
Runner and Basketball Player
Im Dong Hyun
Sledge hockey player
Handcyclist and triathlete
Rajinder Singh Rahelu
These athletes have played with such courage and achieved so much in their field, that it would not be right to call them disabled. In fact, they have shown an exceptional ability to overcome difficulties.