Written by By Catena Kamkar As we race toward the start line, as crowds of cheering and shouting athletes flee for the finish line, I stand to take a big picture of disabled athletes. It’s an experience that wouldn’t feel right without cameras and whatever else I can bring to the scene. Disability sports are becoming increasingly popular in an industry already obsessed with equality. However, what makes disability
sports feel inclusive — like I’ve never experienced before — is the physicality, very different from what I grew up watching. Initially, a paralympic athlete could only feel physical as a result of severe disabilities. There was no else, so to describe their performance with words and skills was quite a challenge. I’m one of those people who still lives in that feeling, although I think I’ve overcome it. Here in
Mexico City, I’m about to take part in my very first Paralympics. I’ll be competing for the USA, one of four countries with representatives from Disability Sports USA. With the United States, we represent all the nations — United States of America (USA), United States of America (Canada), Israel (Israel) and America (United States). The IPC World Para-Swimming Championships are held every four years. They usually
take place during the summer months in a city, so we’ve been lucky that Mexico was able to host us in the year of the Mexican centennial and 100 years of the Olympic movement in Mexico. It was with a sense of amazement and anticipation that I watched the games unfold in Rio in 2016. I participated in a relay race of all my teammates, whose nationality represented the four flags in a unique way. By myself, I was
representing the USA, since even though I’m a double-amputee and a world class swimmer, most of the time I swim as an experienced teammate. As I shared a touching moment of many more Americans cheering for my team in a deafening sea of humanity, I saw my country’s pride for the first time. The memorable moment on the world stage reminded me of my support group and how much I’ve valued it. As we have celebrated the
100 years of the Paralympic Movement, our message is clear: No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter what difficulties, sports can help you get better and achieve more. I have a vivid image of a moto-cross competitor careening down a ramp, called a “backclimb,” determined to get to the finish line in the highest speed possible. This race is every athlete’s personal challenge. He must fit through to
reach his destination with fear, anticipation and lots of support. When he succeeds he becomes the champion of the greatest race of his life — but it’s not an easy journey.