There are a couple of things I could write about today, including my misadventures with the OTC Suburban on my way to the hair salon, but I’ll have to save those stories for another post. Today is all about our Paralympic athletes or paras for short. I love our able-bodied (correct terminology) Olympians as much as the next, but there is something about our paras that is amazing. I find myself constantly seeking them out at dinner, chatting with them on my golf cart, and tracking down their events and times for our newsletter. Because when I do, I meet people like Tanner Gers.
Last night at dinner, I was sitting with Chris (Navy vet and traumatic brain injury para), his girlfriend, and a fellow intern. Towards the end of the night, Tanner, a visually-impaired para, walked in for a late meal. Chris jumped up to guide him to the table and grab food for him (note: massive massive amounts of food), and Tanner sat down with us.
“Hey, I’ve seen you around. I’m Kim.”
“I’m Tanner. Nice to meet you, Kim.”
And we spent the rest of dinner talking about everything from blind baseball to Game 7 Celtics @ Heat to the sadly empty fro-yo machine. By the end of the night, I could barely see Tanner’s eye patch or walking stick. Those things just didn’t much matter after I heard he once jumped completely over the sand pit at one of his long jump events. Chris said the whole stadium just went silent, and everyone was thinking “…Does that even count?
Turns out it does. Tanner is the 2011 U.S. Paralympic championship silver medalist in the long jump and the bronze medalist in both the 100m and 200m. Did I mention that that was his first national championship?
Tanner went blind after a car accident in 2004, when a tree slammed through his windshield. He was 21 years old. I don’t know what you or I would have done after that, but after a while Tanner picked up baseball, sprinting, jumping, (and eating. Seriously, the man can throw down.) Now 8 years later, he’s training here at the Olympic Training Center for trials and hopefully a medal in London.
But we didn’t really talk about that as we headed back to the residence halls. Nope, we actually just talked about the fact that he’s about to be an uncle.