An Ode to Adaptive Sport

My first experience with the Paralympics was during London 2012. I had volunteered with London 2012 Ceremonies, which included a bit of work on the Paralympic ceremonies. So when it was finally time for the opening ceremony, I figured I should watch it because I knew all the people behind the scenes. I certainly didn't think I'd be as affected by it as I was by the Olympic ceremonies because, well, it wasn't the Olympics. But I was personally invested, so after my classes one day I streamed it online.

I cried through the entire thing.

Last year I wrote a post about how I cried for the entirety of the Sochi 2014 Paralympics. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it's really not. Every little thing hit me right in the heart. And over a year later, I haven't gotten any better. There's a Sochi Paralympic montage still playing in the elevator lobbies at United States Olympic Committee headquarters, and if I happen to watch for more than a second or two, I'll get misty-eyed. Again, I wish that was an exaggeration.

But it's not just the Paralympics anymore. I had to fight to control my tear ducts watching Amy Purdy on Dancing with the Stars, and I'm equally as emotionally unstable now that Noah Galloway is on this season. And then there's Tatyana McFadden winning every wheelchair marathon known to man.

These people are real-life superheroes. They've all taken a life situation that most people couldn't even imagine going through and haven't just managed with it, but turned it into a huge positive. They haven't just survived; they've thrived. They've overachieved. They've gone from being close to death and having to relearn how to walk to winning medals and ESPYs and world championships. (And that's not even saying anything about the visually impaired athletes. If I went blind I think I'd be afraid to move around my bedroom, but these people are out there fighting and running and hurtling down mountains.)


The Sochi 2014 Paralympics were the first time I'd ever seen any kind of adaptive sports on TV, and overall the Paralympic movement has made enormous strides in just the last few years. I was watching the sled hockey world championships the other night, and Paralympian Andy Yohe (now doing color commentary) said that, during his first Paralympics in 2006, it was hard to even find the games on the Internet. But now they're being broadcast both live and in primetime on TV. And I mean, just the fact that I can say "I was watching the sled hockey world championships the other night" is incredible. Was this even possible in 2013? I highly doubt it.

I've made no attempts to hide how much I love our sled hockey team, and I'm so beyond excited that I've been able to watch them compete at worlds. I love what an eclectic mix of players there are: former Marines who lost their legs in Afghanistan, high school kids who were born without legs, best friends who lost their legs in the same car accident; guys who grew up playing hockey and guys who had never been exposed to the sport in any form before their accidents.

Basically, my conclusion to all these ramblings is that you should watch the gold medal game tomorrow. 2:30pm EST on NBCSN. USA vs. Canada (and isn't that what all hockey fans want to see?). It may or may not change your life.

I'll probably be crying.

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