The efforts of a physically challenged person who overcomes the odds and participates in the Paralympic Games is lauded. But the efforts of such a person who rises above himself and competes in the strongest arena along with other able-bodied athletes cannot be described by words.
Here is a list of five physically challenged athletes who have participated in the Summer Olympic Games.
# 5 – Marla Runyan
Sport – Athletics
Born in Santa Maria, California, Runyan was legally blind. At the 1992 Paralympic Games, Runyan gathered worldwide attention when she won four gold medals in long jump, 100 m, 200 m and 400 m. In 1996 games in Atlanta, she won a gold in Pentathlon and a silver in the Shot put event.
But, in 1999, Marla Runyan began her career in able-bodied sports. The same year, she won the 1,500 m race in Pan American Games. She qualified for the 1,500 m race in Sydney and became the first legally blind athlete to participate in able-bodied Olympics. She finished 8th in the race making her the highest placed American in the 1,500 m category.
Later, she won various 5000 m races and also was the highest placed American in the 2002 New York Marathon.
# 4 – Natalia Partyka
Sport – Table Tennis
Born in Poland without a right hand and forearm, Partyka began competing in Table Tennis championships for physically challenged athletes in 1999. She at first competed in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games and in 2004 at Athens Paralympic Games, she won gold in singles and silver in team event.
By 2006, she began participating in able-bodied sports and achieved moderate success. In 2008, she qualified for both the Paralympic and Able-bodied games in Beijing.
She defeated many top ranked Chinese players despite lacking body balance. In Beijing, she couldn’t win medals in normal criteria but she repeated her Athens feat by winning the singles gold in Beijing.
# 3 – Oscar Pistorius
Sports – Track and Field
Dubbed as the “fastest man on no legs”, Pistorius shocked the entire world when he qualified for the 2012 London Summer Olympics despite being an amputee.
His career in Paralympics began when he won the 200 m gold in Athens. Later in Beijing Paralympics, Pistorius won three gold medals in 100 m , 200 m and 400 m races respectively.
By 2010, Oscar Pistorius began competing in able bodied events. In the 400 m races, he recorded more than three instances clocking less than 46 seconds. But during 2011, he set a time of 45.07 s attaining A standard from the Olympic committee.
Pistorius often called as the “Blade Runner” will now run for South Africa in both the 400 m as well as the 4 x 400 m relay in London, a feat which has never been matched by any amputee.
# 2 – Natalie du Toit
Sport – Swimming
Natalie du Toit remains one of the greatest swimmers to have ever come from Africa despite losing a left leg at the age of 17.
After her left leg was removed in 2001, Natalie didn’t give up her hopes. Only a year later, she participated in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and won two gold medals. In 2004, despite missing the cut for the able bodied events, she qualified for the Paralympics, winning 5 gold medals and a silver.
In 2008, she qualified for the Beijing Olympics by finishing 4th in the 10km Open Water Championships in Spain. In the Olympics, she managed a respectable 16th place. In the same Beijing Paralympics, Natalie repeated her 2004 feat by winning five gold medals.
In 2008, the South African Olympic Committee chose du Toit to carry the country’s flag in both the Summer Games as well as the Paralympic games making her the first athlete to do so.
She has been lauded by various organizations for “breaking down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied sport”.
# 1 – Im Dong-Hyun
Sport – Archery
Dong-Hyun, the South Korean Archer has a vision of 20/200 in his left eye and 20/100 is his right meaning that he is legally blind. Despite having such a faulty vision in a sport where vision is very vital, Dong-Hyun has always been a master at his art.
In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Dong-Hyun won gold in the team event. Later in 2006, at the Asian games, he won golds in both the individual as well as the team events. In 2008, he once again won gold in the team event at Beijing.
At the very first day of the 2012 London Olympics, Dong-Hyun broke the world record scoring 699 points at the ranking round in Lord’s. Along with his team mates, he narrowly missed gold, settling for a bronze in the team event.
Dong-Hyun is still in contention for the singles gold which has eluded him for so long. Let us hope that he does that and provides us all a worthy fairytale.