Category: Paralympics

Back with Team USA! Hello from Parapan Ams!

A great peek inside the Games! I miss the days when I could do this, but stay tuned 😉

Thanks for sharing, Jamie!

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Chance Encounters, Mindfulness, and Hippies

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Today’s post came from a chance encounter I had walking home from work last week. Chipotle and dry cleaning in hand, I was crossing the street in front of my place when I ran into a gentleman searching for a bookstore. As I gently broke the news to him that there were no bookstores within walking distance (and wondered how on Earth I was still living in this intellectually-barren wasteland), we fell into a conversation about schools and careers and goals. Because Washington.

“Lost sidewalk man” was actually Kenneth Wesson, noted brain researcher and education consultant. Kenneth being a neuroscientist and me being in the veteran space, we organically hit on the topic of traumatic brain injury (TBI). I told him about Chris Clemens, a veteran I had worked with at the training center.

While deployed to Afghanistan in 2004, Chris sustained a traumatic brain injury when an RPG exploded in his camp. Still, that summer I watched Chris sprint, long jump, and train his way to the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Kenneth told me that adaptive sports are so effective at treating TBI because they non-surgically re-wire the brain.

That stuck with me. Non-surgically rewiring the brain.

Back in March, Rebecca Hiscott over at Mashable listed eight ways technology had started to re-wire the human brain. In the 1950s, people dreamed in black and white. Our memory and attention spans are worse. Our visual skills and creativity are better. And “phantom vibration syndrome” is a thing. A very annoying thing.

The point that we can train the brain the same way we train the body. Often times what separates a gold and silver medalist is…mindfulness. (Knew that religion major would come in handy someday!) And I think it’s a lot like that in life. Mindfulness before that interview or date or hard conversation.

During Sochi, Mike Wise at the Washington Post profiled snowboarder & gold medalist Jamie Anderson:

Asked what helped her cope with the pressure before the night of the event, music, candles or meditation, Anderson said, “All of the above. . . . Put on some meditation music, burn some sage. Got the candles going. Just trying to do a little bit of yoga.”

Ommmm

After she was through centering a group of stressed-out reporters on Internet deadlines, it wasn’t clear whether she had just swept the slopestyle snowboarding events for the U.S. or was set to open a restorative wellness center with a noon Ashtanga class.

Either way: Tell your children to breathe. Be present. Don’t worry about sending them to institutions of higher learning; take a walk in the woods. Chill-ax, it’ll all work out.

Freaking hippie might just be on to something.

JAMIE ANDERSON AP

We got a million ways to get it!…Sled Sharks Pt. 2

I am a woman possessed. By my capstone project. It has bewitched me body and soul (Happy 200th birthday, Pride and Prejudice!) But seriously, guys, this project is turning out to be one of the coolest things I’ve done in this city. If you’re looking for something awesome to do in your city, find a club near you (http://findaclub.usparalympics.org/) and shoot them an SOS: “Save me from the relative average-ness of my existence! Here are some times that work for me…”

(Disclaimer: I’m about two weeks in to my capstone, and I haven’t been blogging as I should. Everything I say may or may not have actually happened…here we go.)

Last Sunday, I dragged my roommate with me to Kettler Capitals Iceplex to do some filming for the DC Sled Sharks as they faced off against the Baltimore Bennett Blazers. It was a tough game, and with the starting goalie out sick, the Sled Sharks still managed to put some points on the board, but the Blazers took the W.

It was an amazing experience to shoot it. My first attempt for the project, so I took one or two cues from the reporters that used to come to the OTC…aka I was frontin…hard. I was climbing on top of things, shooting from overhead angles, panning the scene. I was like the Rudy of amateur film. I had no idea what I was doing, but dang it, I had heart. Nowhere near as big as the Sled Sharks, though. On to the next, fellas! We got a million ways to get it!

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…Sled Sharks!

If you’ve been reading my blog this past year, then you’re probably well aware of my fan-girling for Paralympics and adaptive sport. You probably also know that I will be completing a capstone project with Para Sport DC at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in the spring. Pumped, pumped, pumped. You know why? Two words. Sled Sharks.

NRH is home to the DC Sled Sharks, a sled hockey team for disabled youngsters in the DC metro area. Every week these guys meet up for practice at Kettler Capital Ice, the official training rink of Washington Capitals. Same ice, same game, same rules. Only difference is instead of skates, the players are seated on specially-designed sleds with two hockey blades on the bottom. They use two wooden sticks with metal picks on the ends to push off the ice and control the puck.

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Coach Brian Dutton explained to WAMU: “We’ve had kids with Spina Bifida, amputees, conjoined twins — two players that were connected at the head — on two different sleds…Once you get out on the ice, [disabilities don’t] matter, it’s playing the game,” he says. “They love throwing big hits. Everything about hockey, these guys are into!”

Adaptive activities for youth are not just limited to sports either. The Boston Ballet runs an adaptive dance program with Children’s Hospital, Boston for children with Down Syndrome. The Dance Council of North Texas serves people of all ages in the Dallas area, including those challenged by Parkinson’s,  severe autism, and difficulties from aging. As often happens with the Olympics, one of the most inspiring stories of adaptive dance came out of China during the Beijing Games. In 2008, an earthquake shook the Sichaun region of China, leaving nearly 70,000 people dead and thousands more trapped and hurt. After more than 70 hours, 11-year old Li Yue was saved from the rubble of her school, but in order to be freed, her leg had to be amputated. While her classmates succumbed to injuries, malnutrition, and lack of air all around her, dreams of dancing again kept Li encouraged and alive. Four months later with the help of therapy, trainers, and a spirit most of us could only dream of mustering, Li danced Ravel’s Bolero at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games opening.

Stay tuned for my experience with the DC Sled Sharks and more in the spring!

Up, Up, and Away!

So… I’m up at 5 ‘o’ clock in the morning watching the Paralympics. The men’s F11 long jump started at 10am BST, reasonable in London, crack of dawn here in America. Cheering on four friends from the training center: Lex Gillette, Wesley Williams, Tanner Gers, and Rolland “Jay” Slade. Lex is the current world record holder for F11, or totally blind, long jump. And you guys have heard me talk about Tanner before. The daredevil, long-jumping uncle.

For those that know me, and those that have read this blog long enough, you can probably tell that I’m having a bit of a hard time transitioning my mind out of the summer. As excited as I am to see my roommates, be back in the land of public transportation, and finally finish up grad school, this summer I had a taste of the kind of work I want to do. And now, well…I want to go do it. But there are these things called exams and papers and rent and loans in the way. I feel like I’ve finally seen my future. But I’m not there yet, and I can’t live in the past, so it’s time for me to get with the program and get back to the present. New adventures await here in the city!

So now another thing that must once again transition is this blog. I’m going to have to go back to reporting from the sidelines for a bit, which is fine. I’ve waxed on the poetic and waned on the objective a bit too much since June. But the blog will definitely continue as will my connection to new friends, new family, and the Movement. Oh and USOC-DC, if you’re reading this, I’m skilled, passionate and available. I also like long walks on the beach.

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UPDATE: Lex Gillette with guide Wesley Williams takes the silver medal in the men’s long jump F11. Congrats guys 🙂

Overheard at the OTC: “Finding the Ability in Your Disability”

Yesterday I was escorting a visit for one of our Paralympians, a double below-the-knee amputee. Southern boy, big smile, runs the 100 in 10.91 seconds.

In case you didn’t catch that. This guy, who has no legs to speak of, runs 100 meters in 10.91 seconds. The vast majority of people on this planet with all working limbs and good health can barely run 100 meters in general.

When asked what advice he has for anyone watching, the guy said “One thing I always tell people is to find the ability in your disability. We all have challenges to overcome, and there’s always someone that’s worse off than you. What you have to be able to do is take that challenge, overcome it, and find the opportunity in it. I’m hoping to one day compete in the Olympics instead of the Paralympics, and part of why I do this is to show people that the fastest man on Earth can be a guy with no legs.”

Every person alive on this Earth has a disability. A challenge, be it big, small, physical, or mental that keeps you from being whole. The term we use here is able-bodied. But what I’m learning out here is that within every challenge is an opportunity to be a better version of yourself. An improvement on the norm.

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a little biased…