The Paralympics are well underway and some of the most inspirational humans the world has to offer are gathered in Tokyo to fulfil their dreams. The astonishing things these people can do and achieve is nothing short of brilliant and they are among the best role models young people can look up to.
What makes their journeys extra special is the fact that many have had to overcome huge obstacles to get to where they are now. Here are five of the greatest inspirational stories at the Paralympic Games this summer.
Team GB swimmer Suzanna Hext was once a promising horse rider but a tragic accident on a horse changed her life forever. The fall caused damage to her spine, crushed her shoulder, shattered her pelvis as well as causing a head injury as her world crumbled around her.
She remembers watching the London 2012 Paralympics from her hospital bed nine years ago. The 32-year-old has become an inspiration because she did not let her disability define her. She continued to be involved with horse riding as well as swimming and she has already achieved success competing in both sports over the years.
Hext won three Para-dressage gold medals at the 2017 European Championships before winning silver in the 50m freestyle and bronze in the 100m freestyle at the 2019 World Championships. The athlete, who grew up in Truro, holds the British record in the S5 50m and 100m freestyle as well the SB4 100m backstroke. She is competing in all three events at Tokyo.
This Team USA star has had a very troubled and heart-breaking past. She was born in Ukraine three years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and she was born with defects that were likely caused by radiation poisoning caused by the meltdown in 1986. She was born missing weight-bearing bones in her legs, with six toes on each foot and five webbed fingers on each hand, while also having no thumbs.
She was put up for adoption after birth, spending time in three orphanages, before she was adopted by a single mother named Gay Masters and relocated to the US. Firstly, to Buffalo, New York before moving to Louisville, Kentucky. The defects from her birth meant that her legs had to be amputated, with her left leg being done at the age of nine, and the right one when she was 14.
Like Hext, she developed a talent across different sports. She competes at both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games in rowing, cycling and cross-country skiing respectively. She has collected eight Paralympic medals across those disciplines since her debut in London.. She has put herself in an elite club of five Paralympians who have competed at both Games and come away with a medal in each. Cycling is the next challenge in her incredible career that she aims to conquer in Tokyo after coming fourth and fifth in Rio 2016 in the road race and time trial respectively.
In Tokyo, Dame Sarah Storey claimed her first gold medal of the Games when she won the C5 3,000m individual pursuit. With two events remaining, she will become Great Britain’s most successful Paralympian ever if she claims gold in both.
She was born without a functioning left hand due to her arm getting entangled in the umbilical cord in the womb but that did not stop the athlete from chasing her dreams. She made her Paralympic debut in the pool at Barcelona 1992 as a 14-year-old, claiming two gold medals, three silvers and a bronze.
Since her debut in Spain, she has made an appearance at an incredible eight Paralympic Games, won a whopping 15 gold medals along the way, and smashed an eye-watering 76 world records.
Jaco van Gass
Team GB’s Jaco van Gass claimed gold in record-breaking fashion in the C3 3,000m individual pursuit on the cycle track. 12 years ago, Van Gass was in Afghanistan serving in the Parachute Regiment where he suffered devastating injuries after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, losing his left arm at the elbow. He also suffered a collapsed lung, punctured internal organs, a broken tibia, fractured knee, and shrapnel wounds.
He faced 11 operations and a lot of time spent on rehabilitation and his story has an excellent narrative which has the power to inspire the next generation.
This Paralympian has become a social media hero after clips of him playing table tennis at the Games with the paddle in his mouth after he lost both his arms in an accident when he was 10 years old.
The Egyptian stunned fans with his incredible technique of tossing the ball up with his foot and managing to play remarkable shots with his mouth. The embodiment of anything’s possible if you are determined and work hard enough.