The Winter Paralympics are around the corner! This is an exciting time for anyone who could be considered an adaptive individual – whether you’re living with limb loss/limb difference or another “disability” the Paralympics are a reminder of what’s possible when you’re living life against the odds. This year is particularly exciting in that NBC has committed to nearly 100 hours of Paralympic television coverage for the Winter Games (starting on March 9th) – almost double what was offered during the 2014 games in Sochi. This unprecedented exposure is absolutely incredible, and I am very much looking forward being able to watch many of my close friends compete In events like sled hockey, snowboarding, skiing, and so on. The Winter Paralympic Games is also an opportunity for able-bodied individuals to glean some insight into the world of adaptive sports, as well as the lives of adaptive athletes. For these individuals (or “Abe’s” as I like to call them, a play on the AB – able-bodied – acronym) this may be the only glimpse they ever catch into adaptive life. Let’s face it, Olympic and Paralympic athletes are obviously some pretty incredible performers in their respective activities. As a former National Para-Powerlifting team member (and future hopeful for US sled hockey team, in addition long-time athlete in general), I’ve experienced firsthand the proverbial “blood, sweat and tears” that goes into training to become a Paralympian. If you’re an individual with an amputation/limb difference, the context of the Games coupled with their unprecedented visibility can also be a time for reflection on your own performance and potential. Anybody has the potential to become a Paralympic athlete, but ultimately not everyone becomes one – and that’s okay. Our society has the tendency to elevate athletes to idol-like status, and Paralympic athletes who defy the odds are typically viewed as even more inspiring than their able-bodied counterparts. You may draw some unintended-yet-unwelcome comparisons from Abe’s in your daily life… Picture the following real conversation I’ve had (names changed to protect the innocent)
“I saw this guy on TV and he was skiing down a hill and he only had one leg and it was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen! I think they called it the ‘Pair of Olympics!’ – Why don’t you do anything like that?”
“Well, Karen, first of all it’s the ‘Paralympics’, and I really don’t want to, so why aren’t you out there doing downhill skiing?”
It’s important to remember that this may very well be an Abe’s only exposure to adaptive life, so their frame of reference can be skewed to believe that every individual with a “disability” strives to be an athlete – and that’s simply not true. I’ve had a role in the fitness and nutrition coaching of many individuals with limb loss/limb difference, ranging from current and former Paralympic team members to people with amputations that just want to focus on being the best version of themselves – whatever that vision may be. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to be able to stand and do the dishes with your prosthesis on, play with your kids, or play in the Gold-medal game, your goals and aspirations are your own. Now, that being said, there’s absolutely no reason you have to abide by the status quo many amputees have set before them – if someone tells you you’ll never stand/walk/run/whatever, there’s zero reason for you to accept that. You can accomplish anything that you want, if you want to! Set your own goals and don’t let anyone tell you what you are or aren’t capable of. At the same time, unless becoming one of these incredible athletes is a goal of yours, there’s no need to compare yourself to them! High performance is a completely subjective matter, and while I encourage everyone, regardless of limb-loss/limb difference or otherwise to maximize their potential, the only person you need to focus on becoming is the best version of yourself!
About the Author:
Trevor Bunch is a bilateral above knee amputee, personal fitness coach, and athlete. Physical activity has always been a passion of his, and he has put that passion to use by helping coach other amputees at all stages of their journey. Whether it’s motivation/mindset coaching, exercise or nutrition instruction, Trevor is always happy to help those who reach out to him maximize their physical potential!