Adaptive sports began as a means to rehabilitate veterans from World War II, Korea, and the Vietnam War. Today, Disabled Sports USA serves both civilians and the latest military who have sustained permanent physically disabling injuries while in Iraq and across the globe.
Among the early pioneers was Jim Winthers, a WWII veteran who was a member of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division – the Skiing 10th, an elite group specifically trained for alpine warfare. In 1953 Winthers was director of the Donner Ski Ranch in Northern California. Reunited with two buddies who lost legs in the war, and using techniques he saw in Europe, he taught them to ski on one leg.
He later was sought out by Jim Graham, a former skier who lost his leg to cancer and wanted to learn Winthers’ techniques. Two years later, Graham and Winthers and two others began developing techniques to impart skiing and teaching methods at weeklong clinics.
Eventually, Graham and Dan McPherson became the first and second certified ski instructors with a disability.
In 1967, the National Amputee Skiers Association (NASA) was founded with three chapters, and later renamed as the National Handicapped Sports and Recreation Association (NHSRA).
Ben Allen, another protégé of Winthers, became another one of the few certified ski instructors in the country. In 1970, he moved from the West to attend Tufts University Medical School. Wanting to establish an amputee ski program in the East, he contacted the Haystack Mountain Ski Area in Vermont. With Fran Rebstad, he established the first official handicapped ski program, known as the Haystack Chapter of the National Inconvenienced Sportsmen’s Association.
Doug Pringle is the current president of the founding chapter, Disabled Sports USA Far West. A disabled Vietnam vet, Pringle became hooked on skiing through the outreach of NASA. He joined NASA, and became its president in 1970. He further expanded the network to 25 chapters over the next six years. As a member of the Professional Ski Instructor’s Association (PSIA), he expanded Learn to Ski clinics and authored numerous manuals about disabled skiing. In 1988, PSIA voted to recognize NHSRA’s Adaptive Ski Instructor Certification program.
The influx of wounded from the Vietnam War saw the ski program develop even more. Many of the wounded became involved in skiing because major military hospitals were including the sport as part of rehabilitation training, most notably Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco and Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania.
One of the Vietnam War amputees who was a program participant was Kirk Bauer, now Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA. Bauer was a Winthers’ protégé who, after recovering from his injuries, moved to the East Coast to attend Boston University law school. He then became one of the leaders of the New England Handicapped Sportsmen’s Association handicapped teaching program. In 1982, he was tapped to lead NHSRA as the director. Through the years, Kirk steered the organization to include summer sports and fitness programs. In 1994, NHSRA was renamed Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA), which now includes 91 chapters in 36 states.
Initially involved primarily in winter sports activities, DS/USA chapters now promote year-round recreational activities and various levels of competitive sports. DS/USA has gained national recognition for its pioneering role in developing physical fitness programs for people with disabilities, the provision of adaptive programs and it’s advocacy for people with disabilities in relation to sports and recreation. In 1997, DS/USA launched Challenge Magazine.
Among those who were key in fostering disabled sports in the early years included:
- Jack “Action Jackson” Benedick, double amputee as a result of a Vietnamese landmine came to the skiing program through the Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, which arranged for disabled veterans to ski in Arapahoe Basin. He was a leader in the development of competition for disabled skiers. He was president of the Rocky Mountain Handicapped Sportsmen’s Association, one of the thirteen original NHSRA chapters. In 1979, became president of the national organization and then competition director in 1983 prior to the United States Ski Association hiring him as USSA Director of Disabled Skiing.
- Dr. Duane Messner, an orthopedic surgeon was instrumental in moving the Denver Children’s Hospital ski program to Winter Park. He was team doctor with the U.S. Ski Team and team doctor at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble.
- Ed Lucks devised a major improvement to the outrigger. He rigged a plunger that could be lowered through a hole in the ski tip so the outrigger could double as a crutch for crossing flats or climbing hills. He also pioneered in such areas as skiing for the blind and for people with neuro-muscular dysfunction.
- Col. Paul Brown, Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at Fitzsimmons General Hospital who had been instrumental in generating recreational activities to help his patients’ confidence and self-esteem. He had heard of amputee skiing in Germany. Arranged for programming at Arapahoe Basin.
- William Stanek, director of the Children’s Amputee Clinic at Denver Children’s Hospital, worked with Paul Brown for amputee skiing programs.
- Hal O’Leary, founded the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) at Winter Park in 1970. Today a team of 19 PSIA certified instructors and more than 1,000 volunteers are part of NSCD. The NSCD’s world-recognized recreation program at Winter Park provides innovative outdoor recreation for adults and children with physical and mental disabilities. O’Leary was the inspiration for a series of dolls with disabilities. Called Hal’s Pals, the huggable dolls were made with a disability – amputee, visually impaired, wheelchair user, hearing impaired, and leg braces. They were created by Susan Andersen in the early 1980s and were designed for disabled children to see positive images of their own disability; as a teaching tool for children with no disabilities; and for professionals and disabled adults involved in various programs for the disabled.
- Bill Stieler, WWII amputee, sponsored the first ski clinic at Boyne Mountain with Hal O’Leary and Ed Lucks. Stieler traveled, wrote, spoke and campaigned extensively to promote handicapped skiing in Michigan.
There was much work to do in the early years to develop disabled sports in accessibility, adaptive equipment, instruction and techniques. It was also important to develop organizations or chapters so those interested would have a place for support and inclusion. While it’s hard to imagine such discrimination today, in the 1980s, mono- and sit-skiers were not allowed on the slopes on the weekends, and some areas didn’t allow mono- or sit-skiers on the slopes at all.
Groundbreakers bringing professionalism, integrity and acceptance and respect to the world of winter and summer disabled sports include in alphabetical order:
- Gwen Allard – Ski teaching professional for more than 30 years. Former PSIA-E Executive Director, director of the PSIA-E Education Foundations and, president of the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Ski Windham (N.Y.) Inducted into the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame in 2001.
- Bill Bowness – Member of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team from 1992-1996. Contributing author to the 2nd edition of the PSIA Adaptive Ski Manual. Member of the Board of Directors of the Water Skiers with Disabilities Association, a division of USA Water Ski. Former member of the U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team and three-time world record holder in slalom, and a single world record holder in the jump event. Nine time individual World Champion in slalom, trick and jump. 2001 and 2002 Overall National Champion at the U.S. Disabled National Water Ski Championships. Wrote adaptive coaching manual for water ski instructors.
- Bonnie St. John Deane – Silver and bronze medal winner in the 1984 Paralympics. Rhodes scholar, Harvard honors graduate, and former White House official. Motivational speaker.
- Paul DePace – Weightlifter. U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors 1998-2003 and chairman of the board of Wheelchair Sports USA 1988-2005. Represented International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation on the Executive Board of the International Paralympic Committee 2001-2005.
- Paul DiBello – Four-time world disabled ski racing champion. Developed the National Sports Center for the Disabled Racing Program in 1984, the largest disabled ski competition program in the country and the only ski operation that offers year-round race training and coaching to athletes with disabilities. The program is home to the Winter Park Disabled Ski Team.
- Michael Frogley – Head coach of the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams at the University of Illinois since 1998. Coached the Illinois men to three national collegiate titles in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Coached the Illinois women to national titles in 2002 and 2006. Earned numerous championships and medals nationally and internationally as both a player and coach, including bronze at the 1990 World Cup, gold in 1991 at the Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games, gold with the Canadian women at the 1996 Paralympics and gold with the Canadian men at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney and in Athens 2004.
- Dave Grevemberg – International Paralympic Committee Sports Director and former Director of Disabled Sports USA’s competition program.
- Dr. Robert Harney – Nationally recognized in the field of disabled sports, Dr. Harney was instrumental in developing disability classifications for the Paralympic games.
- Brad Hedrick – Wheelchair basketball coach. Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Education Services at the University of Illinois. Coached 13 men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams to national titles. Author of books on wheelchair basketball and wheelchair track and field.
- Charlie Heubner – First Chief of the U.S. Paralympics and previous Executive Director for the United States Blind Athletes.
- Bryan Hoddle – Head coach of the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team in Athens 2004. Now serves as a consultant, motivator, teacher, and coach.
- Jim MacLaren – As an amputee, he was an accomplished triathlete, but an accident during a competition injured his vertebrae, and ended his Ironman career. Jim became a motivational speaker and established the Choose Living Foundation. He received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2005 ESPY Awards.
- Dennis Oehler and Todd Schaffhauser – Track and Field teammates at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, they created walking and running clinics for amputees, their families, and rehabilitation professionals worldwide with the goal of having amputees learn how to be more physically active, gain confidence, and improve their mobility. Oehler: In 1988, won gold in 100m (A4A9), with a record time of 11.73 seconds, gold in the 200m and 400m. In 1992 Barcelona, won silver in the100m and gold in the long jump, setting a world record. 1996 Paralympian. Schaffhauser: Three-time Paralympian. Won gold in 1988 Seoul in 100m (A2A9). In 1992, won bronze in 200m. In the 1995 World Games in Germany, broke his own world record by running 100 meters in 14.55 seconds.
- Meeche White – Former Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of the National Ability Center in 1985. Active in numerous national and community organizations including the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and DS/USA. Taught adapted skiing for 20 years and continues to be active in ski racing for the disabled. ADA Manager for the 2002 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
Alpine and Nordic Skiing
The activity that started it all began on a ski slope. From the beginning when skiers experimented with wiring skis directly to their prosthesis, techniques and equipment and opportunities have exploded for those interested in snow sports. Some of the giants of Alpine and Nordic skiing include:
- Candace Cable – Nine-time Paralympian, a former Alpine skier who switched to Nordic events and is the first U.S. Ski Team female sit-skier. Also, accomplished distance wheelchair racer and six-time Boston Marathon winner.
- Steve Cook – Four-time Paralympian won gold in 5km freestyle, gold in 10km classic and bronze in 20km classic in 2006 Torino Paralympics.
- Chris Devlin-Young – U.S. Disabled Ski Team. Gold in slalom, 1994 Lillehammer; gold in super G, 2002 Salt Lake City; silver in downhill, 2002 Salt Lake City; silver, downhill, 2006 Torino; super G 2005 World Cup Champion; silver, giant slalom, 2005 World Cup. Named 2003 Disabled Skier of the Year by Ski Racing magazine.
- Cara Dunne-Yates – Dunne-Yates, who passed away in 2004, became the youngest member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team at age 11. Blind since she was 5, she earned more than 13 major medals in international meets. At two Paralympic meets, she earned two bronze and three silver medals in downhill, slalom and giant slalom.
- Diana Golden – Seven-time world champion in downhill. Ten gold at the World Disabled Ski Championships and 19 gold at the U.S. Disabled Alpine Championships. Member U.S. Disabled Ski Team from 1979-82 and 1985-90. Awarded the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Female Skier of the Year in 1988, an honor never before given to a disabled athlete. Inducted in the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
- Jason Lalla – 1998 Paralympic gold medalist in giant slalom; 2000 World Championship giant slalom gold medalist; three-time champion at 2001 National Championship. Named U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete of the Month for April 2001. Won silver in super G and bronze in downhill at 2002 Paralympics.
- Greg Mannino – Five-time Paralympian, who earned six gold, four silver and two bronze medals in Alpine skiing.
- Monte Meier – Slalom skier. 2005 World Cup winner; gold at 2005 The Hartford; bronze 2004 World Championships; 2002 World Cup champion; silver at 2002 Paralympics; gold at 1998 Paralympics. Medaled at 2000 Worlds. Bronze at 1994 Paralympics.
- Chris Waddell – Mono skier. Gold medals at Lillehammer 1994 in slalom, super G, downhill and giant slalom; gold and silver in Nagano 1998; silver at Sydney 2000 in 200m track. With Sarah Will, founded the Chris Waddell and Sarah Will Mono Ski Camp to teach people with disabilities to ski. One of the few athletes to medal in both winter and summer Paralympic Games (Alpine skiing and track).
- Sarah Will – Four-time Paralympian, 1992,1994, 1998, 2002. Winner of 13 Paralympic medals, 12 of them gold.
- The Hartford Ski Spectacular – Celebrates 20 years in 2007 as a five-day event introducing skiing and snowboarding to beginners, world-class slalom races, and clinics for teaching professionals. Hosted by the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
Cycling was first introduced as a Paralympic sport for athletes with cerebral palsy in 1984 in Stoke Mandeville, England. Later expanded to include visually impaired athletes, biking in tandem with a sighted partner and amputees in Barcelona in 1992.
Handcycling enables athletes of all abilities to ride a bike using the upper body. It’s one of the newest competitions at the Paralympic Games, where it made its first appearance in Athens in 2004.
- Alejandro Albor – Silver medalist in 2004 Paralympics. Three-time winner of Sadler’s Midnight Sun Ultra Challenge. Designs and manufactures handcycles to his client’s specs with his company, A-WON Handcycles.
- Monica Bascio – 2006 Sadler’s Midnight Sun Ultra Challenge Women’s Handcycle, first place. Two-time Champion of the Ultra Challenge. 2000 WSUSA athlete of the year and 13-time U.S. National Champion.
- Ian Lawless – Co-founder and executive director of the U.S. Handcycling Federation in 1999 along with Steve Ackerman and Tom Foran. Ackerman handcycled around the world in 246 days in 1995.
- Scott McNeice – 2002 silver medalist in the World Championships both in road race and time trial; 1999 Handcycling Points Series, first; 1998 IPC Handcycling World Championships, first in road race and time trial. 1998 USHF Nationals, first in time trial, road race, and criterium.
- Carlos Moleda – A three-time Ironman World Champion, he turned his attention to the Olympic distance in 2005 and won a silver medal at ITU Worlds (in his second ever Olympic distance race). A week later, he went back to Kona and shattered his own handcycle division record in his final appearance there.
- Dory Selinger – Competed against able-bodied racers in cycling; 1995-96 National Track Champion; gold medal in 1996 Paralympics, breaking three world records. Holds every U.S. velodrome record for cyclists in his classification.
- Duncan Wyeth – 1988 Paralympics cycling. Worked on the administrative side in Barcelona in 1992 and Athens in 1996; member of the USOC board of directors. In 2000, the American Academy on CP and Developmental Medicine established the Duncan Wyeth Award to annually recognize an individual who contributes significantly to the health and wellness of persons with disabilities through sport and recreation.
Golf for amputees, a sport for almost all ages and all abilities, has been a staple for decades with First Swing clinics and national tournaments for those with disabilities.
But the sport as it related to someone with a physical disability was thrown into the national limelight in 2001 when Casey Martin won a case decided by the Supreme Court allowing the use of carts for people with disabilities on the PGA tour. While at Stanford University, he played with Tiger Woods to win the NCAA golf championship in 1994.
- Bob Buck – Founder, past president and current executive director of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association (EAGA). Oversees amputee tournaments and golf outings as well as NAGA’s First Swing/Learn to Golf clinics for rehab and golf professionals and individuals with disabilities and their families.
- NAGA (National Amputee Golf Association) – Had its beginnings with World War II veteran Dale Bourisseau who organized other amputees to play golf as a means of recreation and to reinforce pride. Eventually, the group grew regionally and friendly games developed into tournament play and was established as NAGA in 1954. Currently is led by Bob Wilson and has over 2,000 players in the U.S. and 200 players from other countries. Introduced the game to hundreds of amputees through its First Swing program. Sponsors local and regional tournaments throughout the country and the National Senior Championship.
- The PGA of America/Disabled Sports USA Military Golf Program – Initiated in 2007, as a joint effort with DS/USA, PGA professionals are working with Wounded Warriors teaching golf as a sport for rehabilitation and a fulfilling recreational pursuit.
Disabled athletes are frequently proficient in many sports. Their years of training, discipline, endurance, and will to win are perhaps most showcased by participation in Ironman competitions or triathlons, which consist of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike course, and finishing with a 26.2 mile run. Notables in this arena include:
- Paul Martin – Amputee. First challenged athlete to complete The Double (Ironman Hawaii/XTERRA World Championships) held on back-to-back weekends. Nine Ironman finishes. International Triathlon Union World Champion. 2007 ITU World Championships – his fifth world champ win. Silver in Team Sprint in 2004 Athens and bronze in Individual Pursuit. Also, two silver medals as a member of the U.S. Team at the World Amputee Hockey Championships. Silver and bronze medals in cycling at the 2004 Athens Paralympics.
- Sarah Reinertsen – First woman with a prosthesis to finish the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii in 15:05. World record holder in T42 division, 100m, 200m, 400m. Completed marathons include NYC 1997 and 1998, Los Angeles 1998 and 1999, Millennium (New Zealand) 2000, London 2002, and Boston 2004. She holds the world record in the half marathon (2:12 and the marathon (5:27) for above-knee amputee women. She has appeared on the cover of Runners World, Triathlete, and Max Sports & Fitness magazines. She competed in television’s “The Amazing Race” and was the 2006 ESPY award winner in Best Female Athlete with a Disability category.
- Scott Rigsby – First double amputee to finish the Ironman in Hawaii 2007 and first to finish half-ironman triathlon in South Carolina in 2006. Member of Team USA at the World Triathlon Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland 2006.
- Maj. Dave Rozelle – Expert skier, triathlete, and the first Iraq war amputee to be deemed fit to return to active duty. Second place in 2006 Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. Completed the NYC Marathon in 2004 and 2005. DS/USA spokesman.
- Willie Stewart – Named one of two Ironman Outstanding Age Group Athletes for 2004, after his third Ironman Triathlon World Championship. Has also competed in the XTERRA Series, Balance Bar 24-hour adventure race and the HURT 100k Run in Honolulu, Hawaii. Also won silver in Nordic skiing at the 2002 Paralympics.
- Ella Chafee – Wheelchair sport pioneer; one of five women who qualified to race in the wheelchair division of the 1979 Boston Marathon. More than 100 gold, silver, and bronze medals in international competition in swimming, track and field, archery, basketball and fencing.
- Amy Dodson – Set a record for fastest marathon time at the St. George Marathon in St. George, Utah, in 2002, running a 3:54.24, beating the previous record by over 24 minutes.
- Jean Driscoll – Won eight Boston Marathons in women’s wheelchair division.
- Bob Hall – First wheelchair racer to win Boston Marathon; pioneer designer of lightweight racing chairs. Often called the grandfather of wheelchair racing.
- George Murray – American wheelchair marathon champion. First to break the four-minute mile, and first to cross the country in a wheelchair.
- Lindsay Nielsen – Marathon runner and first woman amputee to complete an Ironman Triathlon. Paralympian in Sydney 2002. At the 1999 Southern Cross Multi-disability Games in Sydney, she set a world record of 74.92 in the 400m.
- Marla Runyan – Visually Impaired (VI) runner. Two-time Olympian in 2000 and 2004 in 1,500m and 5,000m. Placed eighth in the 1,500m in 2000 Olympics. Fourth place 2002 NYC Marathon, fifth place 2003 Boston Marathon, seventh place 2004 Chicago Marathon, and champion of 2006 Twin Cities Marathon.
- Dick Traum – Founder of the Achilles Track Club for disabled athletes, and the first runner to complete a marathon with a prosthetic leg.
- Tim Willis – Silver in 10,000m in Atlanta 1996; bronze in the 4 by 400m. Bronze in Sydney 2000, and silver in both the 5,000m and 10,000m at the 1998 World Championships in Madrid.
- Todd Huston – Amputee who completed a world record-setting Summit America expedition by climbing to the highest elevations of all 50 states in only 66 days, 22 hours and 47 minutes, shattering the original record by 35 days which was set by a non-disabled person.
- Mark Wellman – First El Capitan climb was in 1989, which took eight days with 7,000 pull-ups along with his climbing partner, Mike Corbett.Wellman also became the first paraplegic to sit ski unassisted across the 55-mile mountain range of the Sierra Nevada with teammate Jeff Pagels. A former member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. Spokesperson for DS/USA.
- Tom Whitaker – First amputee to climb Mount Everest.
- Eric Weihenmayer – First vision impaired climber to summit Mount Everest and the seven tallest peaks on every continent.
Track & Field
- Danny Andrews – below knee amputee. Gold at 2002 Sydney Paralympics in the 800m. Set a world record of 2:08.79. After Sydney, attended the University of Miami where he ran track and field team for three years. Three gold medals at 2004 Athens Paralympics, setting a world record in the 400m. Named to the 2007 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Elite Team.
- Shawn Brown – below knee amputee. Competing in shotput and discus. Won gold in 1996 Paralympics.
- Ann Cody – Represented the U.S. in the Paralympics in 1984 as a member of the women’s wheelchair basketball. In 1988 and 1992, won gold, four silvers and a bronze as a member of the wheelchair track team. Served as the Chair of the International Paralympic Committee Commission on Women and Sport. Currently a member of the IPC governing board.
- Shea Cowart – double below knee amputee. Two gold medals in 200m and 400m in Sydney at 2000 Paralympics.
- Bill Demby – Vietnam War double below knee amputee. National records in shotput, discus and javelin. Certified ski instructor; basketball player. Because Demby had been one of the pioneers wearing the Seattle Foot, DuPont portrayed him playing ball in a schoolyard in a commercial that won a 1988 Clio Award as the best corporate commercial. Motivational speaker.
- Brian Frasure – below knee amputee. Numerous gold and silver medals in the long jump, 100m and 200m including world record 200m in 2000 Sydney and silver medal in 100m. Silver, bronze and gold in 2004 Paralympics in Athens. Member of the 2007 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Elite Team.
- Jami Goldman – In 2000, won silver in 100m and 200m at U.S. Paralympic Trials in Hartford, Conn. First woman double below knee amputee to complete the half-marathon in Hawaii in 2001. Appeared with a group of able-bodied runners in a Gatorade commercial. Motivational speaker.
- Scot Hollenbeck – Wheelchair athlete who won gold in the 800m and silver in the 1,500m at the 1992 Paralympics. Silver in 1996. Won the 1989 Chicago Marathon in more than 11 minutes in front of the second place finisher.
- Al Mead – above knee amputee. In 1988 Paralympics, won gold and set a world record in the long jump, followed by a silver medal in that event in Barcelona in 1992. Member of the U.S. Amputee Athletic Association Hall of Fame. Motivational speaker.
- Aimee Mullins – double below knee amputee. Set Paralympic records in Atlanta for the 100- and 200-meter dash and in the long jump. She was the first disabled member of a Division 1 (Georgetown University) Track team and first disabled member to compete in NCAA in U.S. History. In 1996, she set world records in the 100m, long jump, and 200m. 2007 President of the Women’s Sport Foundation.
- Paul Nitz – Wheelchair racer. In 2000, won his third consecutive gold medal in the 100m race in Sydney. Numerous world and national championships, medals and awards including a second place finish in the quadriplegic wheelchair division of the 1995 Boston Marathon.
- Oscar Pistorius – double below knee amputee. Pistorius aims to compete against able-bodied athletes in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. As of press time, the Olympic Committee has not yet ruled whether his prosthesis is an “unfair advantage.” Currently, the double amputee is the world record holder in his category for the 100, 200, and 400 meter sprints. He took the silver in 400m in the 2007 South African National Championships competing against able-bodied runners.
- Marlon Shirley – below knee amputee. First in the world to break 11-second barrier in 100 meters. Gold in Sydney 2000 Paralympics; gold in Athens. Silver in 200m, and bronze in long jump. Named to the 2007 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Elite Team.
- Jeff Skiba – below knee amputee. Two-time defending world champion in the high jump. 2004 Paralympic silver medalist and the current Paralympic world record holder. In February 2007, he became the first Paralympic athlete to compete at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field National Championships against non-disabled jumpers. Member of the 2007 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Elite Team.
- Casey Tibbs – below knee amputee. The first active member of the military to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004. Won silver in the pentathlon and on the gold medal 4x100m relay team. Named Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year. 2007 ESPY winner as Best Male Athlete with a Disability.
- Tony Volpentest – Quad amputee track sprinter. Gold at 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona in 100m, setting a world record of 11.63 seconds. Repeated it in 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, setting a new world record of 11.36 second
- Rudy Garcia Tolson – double above knee amputee. A very public face of people with disabilities and has become pals and teammates with such celebrities as Robin Williams, Steve Young and Jim Carrey. At 2004 Paralympics, he took home gold and set a world record in the 200m IM. Placed third in the breaststroke at the 2005 Manchester World Cup. Recipient of the 2006 Spirit of da Vinci Award. Continues to swim as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Elite Team.
- Erin Popovich – 2000 Sydney Paralympics, three gold and three silver. Seven gold medals in Athens in 2004.
- Trisha Zorn – Paralympic swimmer since 1980. Won 41 gold, nine silver and four bronze medals. Retired after 2004 Athens.
- Nick Ackerman – A bi-lateral BK amputee, he was wrestling able-bodied opponents while a student at Simpson College in Iowa. He won the 2001 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championship at 174 pounds. He was the first and only athlete to become a national champion without the use of his legs. The NCAA named his wrestling championship one of its “25 Defining Moments in NCAA History.”
- Kyle Maynard – Congenital condition that left him with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end near his knees. Wrestler; weight trains; can lift nearly 400 pounds. 2004 ESPY Award winner. Recipient of the 2004 President’s Award for the Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
- Kevin Szott – Medaled in four different Paralympic sports. Holds over 30 national titles in wrestling, powerlifting, shotput, discus, and javelin. Gold in judo in 2000 and 2004.
Wheelchair tennis became a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics and became an official Paralympics event in 1992. In 2005, the U.S. Open featured for the first time a wheelchair tennis tournament as part of its program. Today, more than 15,000 players in 70-plus countries play wheelchair tennis. The only difference in rules is chair players get two bounces of the ball instead of one.
- Brad Parks – Ran wheelchair tennis clinics in the 1970s with Jeff Minnenbraker. Formed the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation in 1988, now part of the USTA. Won gold with Randy Snow in men’s double at 1992 Paralympics.
- Randy Snow – Paraplegic. First Paralympian to be inducted in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Gold medal winner 1984, track, 1992, tennis, 1996, basketball. DS/USA athlete of the year.
- Dana Bowman – First amputee member of the Golden Knights; the U.S. Army’s elite skydiving team.
- Amy Purdy – Co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, for individuals with disabilities who want to get involved in action sports (snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing).
- Lucas Grossi – Winter Program Director for Adaptive Action Sports and is a representative of the Adaptive Division of the USASA (United States of America Snowboard Association). Worked with the USASA for six years creating alpine and freestyle events for disabled athletes.
- Murderball/Quad Rugby – According to the United States Quad Rugby Association (USQRA), its slogan is, “Smashing stereotypes one hit at a time.” Any misconceptions about quads and helplessness are quickly eliminated as soon as someone sees the game or tries to play Murderball/Quad Rugby. The sport was the subject of a 2005 documentary, “Murderball” and featured real life rugby players Keith Cavil, Andy Cohn, Scott Hogsett, Mark Zupan, Bob Lujano, Joe Soares, and Zupan’s friend, Christopher Igoe. It won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 78th Academy Awards.
- 2002 Sled Hockey Team – The 2002 Paralympic team was ranked very low in international competition. But they provided thrilling moments in the competition and came away with the gold medal. Sylvester Flis and his teammates were additionally honored as Athlete of the Month and Team of the Month by the U.S. Olympic Committee.