People who inspire us tend to go beyond what’s perceived to be their limits. From track racing to arctic expeditions, we look at three people who have achieved amazing things through hard work and courage.
1. Linda Mastandrea
Linda Mastandrea is an attorney and a former paralympian athlete. At the age of two, she was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy. Despite her diagnosis, she was still able to use her legs and managed to get by without a wheelchair, coping by letting other people carry her whenever she got tired.
It wasn’t until she was recruited to the women’s wheelchair basketball team at university, that she started to use a wheelchair. Being the kid that was always watching from the sideline, suddenly being part of a sports team was a whole new experience. She became an important player, which made a huge difference to her confidence and inspired Linda to look even further.
After starting law studies at Chicago-Kent College of Law, she decided to pursue wheelchair track racing. Upon graduating in 1994, she had reached an international level at the track and qualified for the World Championships in Berlin. The result? Three golds medals and two world records in the 200 meter and 400 meter wheelchair track races.
Today, Linda can look back on numerous medals and awards. She’s working as an attorney, but is also spending her time speaking about what it means to have a disability. Ultimately, her goal is to help able-bodied persons get a better understanding of people with disabilities, and enable people with disabilities to live a life without excessive barriers.
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2. James Gallion
James Gallion is quite interesting, simply from the fact that he’s doing something as advanced as parkour. Even though the condition is affecting his limbs, hearing and speaking, James has made the transition from a reserved young man to an athlete in a training discipline where movement and agility is essential.
Often bullied at school, James was given the nickname “Rooster” by the children picking on him. He then decided to adopt the name, calling himself “The Rooster of Fury.” This act of turning a negative to a positive, has proven to be quite typical for James’ courageous character. Soon after, he tried to pick up sports like boxing and even enrolled in the obstacle course The American Ninja Warrior. Though he didn’t make it from the first round of the competition, it was what eventually lead him to check out parkour.
James fell in love with the discipline, and is currently working on passing parkour certifications to become an instructor.
What we can take from James’ journey is certainly to try out different activities, and never stop trying until you find something giving. Like his mom says, “it’s about creating a productive and giving life for yourself,” and that’s exactly what James has done.
3. Simen Tannæs-Fjeld
Skiing 435 kilometers along the northwest passage is a great achievement for anyone. Add cerebral palsy, epilepsy and low vision to the picture, and you have an immense achievement, accomplished by Norwegian Simen Tannæs-Fjeld.
Growing up, Simen was quite active, playing football, cycling and swimming with his kid brother Lars Martin. However, when Lars Martin left home to study, Simen was left behind with his parents with little to do. The two brothers realised they had to create a project to stay in touch, and the idea of an arctic expedition was born.
After 23 days in average temperatures of -19.6 °C, Simen completed the expedition together with his brother and two professional guides – an enormous feat where Simen pushed himself to exhaustion.
For Simen, it was crucial to get enough rest in order to cope with his disabilities. One of the most difficult aspects of the expedition, he claims, was to dress and undress every morning and evening. Another huge obstacle was to get enough nutrients and energy to survive the expedition.
Other than the achievement itself, Simen and his team’s biggest goal was to show the importance of physical health for people with disabilities. The hope is that the expedition will inspire others to become more active and go beyond what they perceive to be their limits.