A few weeks ago, the Olympics concluded with much fanfare and celebration. Countries around the world united to honor the hundreds of Olympians who earned medals, in addition to the other athletes who were among the elite few to even qualify.
While the names we know such as Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas have returned home and started a frenzied media tour, there are still 1,100 athletes from around the world in London right now competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
There are 170 medal events in total in these Paralympic Games: 96 track, 70 field and four road. The Paralympic Games is the world’s second largest major international multi-sport event, and the athletes who participate are living with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities.
While the competitions may not look exactly the same as what you might see in the Olympics, these athletes are even braver to have overcome even larger barriers to fight their way to the United Kingdom for this year’s Games.
During the Olympics, I noted a few athletes from around the world who competed in this year’s games after overcoming cancer. After a quick search, I discovered that there are numerous athletes in the Paralympic Games that have also fought the same fight. Some of these athletes – like Australian swimmer Ellie Cole – are at the Paralympics because of their battle with cancer, while others – like table tennis star Will Bayley – have fought cancer in addition to the original reason that led them to compete.
Let’s take a look at some of these brave heroes:
Paralympic table tennis star Will Bayley of Great Britain was born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder affecting the joints of the hands and feet. As if that weren’t enough, at age seven he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He won Silver in the men’s singles class 7 this year.
Ellie Cole of Australia lost her right leg to a sarcoma when she was just three years old. She swam in Beijing in 2008, and will compete in seven total events in this year’s games. She has already won a Bronze in the 400m freestyle and a Gold in both the 100m backstroke and as part of the 4X100m freestyle relay.
For Germany, Heinrich Popow lost his left leg to cancer at the age of eight. Popow competes in 100m, 200m and long jump. He first competed in the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004 and won three Bronze medals. In the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games he won Silver in the 100 m. This year, Popow won a Bronze in the Men's 200m - T42.
Another Australian, 51-year-old Colin Harrison, lost his right arm to cancer when he was 28. He is the skipper of the Australian three-man Sonar yacht team.
From the U.S., Alison Aldrich of Nebraska represents her country in the sport of sitting volleyball. At the age of seven, Aldrich lost her right leg to bone cancer.
Congrats to these, and all of the other amazing athletes, who are competing in the 2012 Parlympic Games!