Amazing feats of endurance and perseverance have guided the lives of some athletes who do not take things for granted, ever or anymore, as they venture through life without limbs. Their athletic ability is inborn, a first nature in a way, aside from any disability most might question. Their inspiring stories of strength, fortitude and enjoyment of life go beyond the what if and how can you questions. They just do what they love, quite naturally, with skill and determination.
Barbie Thomas runs each day, training for body building events, taking care of her teenage sons and enjoying the sunshine in Phoenix. The 37 year old mother is active, fit, toned and tanned. She exudes confidence and does it all quite well with ease, despite the lack of arms. She is highly capable of everyday tasks including cooking, driving and managing the household chores. The regular mom in a suburban neighborhood is also a body builder, winning competitions and modeling with her winning smile and strong legs.
She would have strong arms as well, if she still had them, but after a tragic accident as a child, Thomas lost her arms and has recovered using her mouth and legs to do all she needs to get done. The adventuresome nature lover credits her positive upbringing and encouragement in winning numerous local and national events. Her routines of dance and gymnastics have been incorporated beautifully into her flawless displays of natural talent and grace.
Bethany Hamilton, age 23, has soared above the waves and wonders in the world of surfing and has gone on to win multiple championship competitions. Already a seasoned swimmer and surfer by age 13 in her native Hawaii, the gal of faith had a freak accident out of her control. Her dangling left arm was actually bitten off by a shark within the beautiful waters of the Pacific.
Through her will to go on and the encouragement and help of her family and friends, Hamilton returned to fearless surfing less than two months after the accident. Her story has been documented in the 2010 movie Soul Surfer, co-starring Carrie Underwood, and has served as a springboard for many athletes inspired by her delightful character and smile. Hamilton, who recently married her sweetheart this past summer, actively competes around the world and her story goes on to serve others dealing with the real trials of life and overcoming fear.
Then, there is of course Oscar Pistorius, the South African runner better know as the ‘Blade Runner.’ Losing his legs before he was one year old due to no fibula in his lower legs, he was fitted with prosthetics from a young age. The 26 year old athlete competed in the London 2012 Summer Olympics and did quite well. His personal problems resulting from being accused of murder are tragic and quite separate from the accomplishments he has achieved. Pistorius still ranks as one of the most inspiring athletes of all time.
Kayla Wheeler, from the state of Washington, is the real hero in this crowd. Born with only one arm and no legs, the 16 year actively competes in the Paralympics swimming events and has done exceptionally well. Nothing seems impossible with these athletes of extreme disability and extreme drive to overcome. They have tackled their obstacles head-on and have risen above the doubts. Their stories are awesome within the normal expectations of an athlete. They do what they love and they love what they do. As arms and legs are optional in these cases, the talent of these inspirational athletes are a natural extension of their soul and spirit for life and competition.
By: Roanne H. FitzGibbon