The Paralympic scene earns more and more recognition with every event, and 2021 is going to be no different. The incredible growth of the scene is continuing apace to the next games, with the IPC expanding events and adding new groups, including the well-received refugee team that competed in the Olympics last time round. From the USA, a few leading lights are showing the front of the charge, showing their strength against the challenges posed by living with disability and giving the States a big chance of making a serious impact next year.
Track and field – Ahkeel Whitehead
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age, Ahkeel Whitehead has already has showings at the 2016 Paralympic games and the 2013 World Championships, according to Team USA. Ahkeel will have benefited hugely from physical therapy for cerebral palsy early on in his life and continuing; this is part of the reason why many Paralympians are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, as it typically goes hand in hand with athletic activities, the condition and workouts sharing a positive relationship between one another. With Japan around the corner, Ahkeel will be looking to make a mark at the games alongside other Paralympians who share his condition, such as skier Andrew Haraghey.
Cycling – Clara Brown
A rising star of the Paralympian scene in America, Clara Brown was always active as a child, according to her profile in USA Cycling. An injury to her spinal cord in a school gymnastics session resulted in a diagnosis of hemiplegia and little motor function in her right side, but this hasn’t prevented Clara from finding success in athletics. A multiple gold medalist in trials and tracks through 2020, the US Paralympic team have high hopes for her in Japan next year. Using a system of sophisticated modifications to her racing bike, Clara has shown a great talent in a historically competitive field.
Sprinting – Deja Brown
Deja Brown was born with a condition meaning she had nerve damage and limited mobility in her right shoulder from an early age. Despite the constraints of her condition, Deja went on to become a world record holder in T46 and T47 sprinting events, having won medals in Rio. Diagnosed with coronavirus in 2020, she was reportedly pleased that the Tokyo games had been postponed, according to Inside The Games. A leading light of the American Paralympic scene, Deja will be looking to make a big impact at the 2020 games. Disability can come in many forms and have a huge range of impacts, but the adaptability and determination of these sporting heroes make for a brilliant reflection on American society as a whole and an inspiration for the future.
This is where the beauty of parts of American society really come out. Even if politics and society are more divisive than ever, the sheer willingness of people living with disability and the Paralympic committee are helping to provide inspiration to other people living with disability, despite these dark times.