Our favourite Paralympians through the years
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 07 September 2020
The Paralympic Games began in 1948 as a small gathering of World War II veterans in Britain, and by 1960 the first official Paralympic Games were held. The event has been held regularly since 1960, but unfortunately the current pandemic has put the 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympics on hold until 2021: in a bid to control Covid-19 and reduce transmission at large gatherings, Tokyo have postponed this year’s events.
This may be a necessary measure but it’s still a great shame: the Paralympics are a fantastic opportunity every year to stop and appreciate the amazing feats of strength, ambition, and resilience achieved by athletes with a disability. In honour of the games we are missing this year, we thought it is time to look back through the years at some of the world’s most inspiring Paralympic athletes. Here are our all-time top picks of the Paralympics.
After contracting bacterial meningitis at 19, Amy Purdy had a double amputation below the knees. As a keen snowboarder, Purdy built her own adapted snowboard and continued with her passion.
She’s competed and won medals in many events around the world, including the 2011 World Cup, the 2012 Para-Snowboard World Championships, the 2013 US Paralympics Snowboard Cross National Championships, and the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Purdy is also one of the co-founders of Adaptive Action Sports, an organisation dedicated to helping other people with disabilities to participate in high-action sports.
Born blind, Trischa Zorn is a true role model, proving that every hurdle is surmountable. Between 1980 and 2004, Zorn woman an amazing 55 Paralympic medals in swimming events, 41 of which were gold. Her best year was no doubt 1988, when she won ten individual gold medals in Seoul and two team gold medals.
Stephen Miller, field athletics
Stephen Miller was born with Cerebral Palsy, a condition which affects both balance and coordination. Despite this setback, he now competes in field athletics at the Paralympics.
When he attends Tokyo in 2021, he will have participated in seven Paralympic Games. He is also won an impressive number of medals over the years including 3 gold Paralympic medals, 1 silver, and 2 bronze. Stephen Miller is proof of what can be achieved even in the face of difficulty.
Kelly Cartwright, runner
Kelly Cartwright had her right leg amputated above the knee when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer of the knee. Once she was rehabilitated with a prosthetic leg, she took up running, soon becoming a Paralympic professional.
She competed in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics 100-meter race and came 6th, and broke her own record in both the 100m race and the long jump at the 2012 London Paralympics. Kelly is a phenomenal example of the amazing things people can achieve with prosthetics.
Franz Nietlispach, wheelchair racer
Franz Nietlispach is a Swiss athlete whose awe-inspiring career as a Paralympian should impress anyone. Nietlispach is an athletics champion who has competed in every Summer Paralympics from 1976 to 2008. He’s won a total of 21 medals, including 14 gold, 6 silver, and 1 bronze.
While he competes primarily in athletics, he’s also competed in both cycling and table-tennis – and on top of all this, he’s held political office in Switzerland.
Natalia Partyka, table tennis player
Born without a right forearm, Natalia Partyka is always a sight to see. As one of the best table tennis players in the world, she moves with such agility and poise most people would not notice her disability at first. Natalia is also the world’s youngest ever Paralympic athlete, having competed in her first event at just 11 years old, at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.
She competed for her native Poland in both the Olympics and Paralympics that year, as well as in the 2012 London Games. Natalia has won five medals so far: 3 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze – with hopefully many more still to come.
Jeremy Campbell was born without his right fibula, which led to his leg being amputated when he was just one year old. Despite this, Jeremy was an active child, and in high school he was the quarterback of the school football team.
In the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, he won gold medals in both discus and pentathlon, and came 4th in the long jump. He later competed in the 2012 London Paralympics as well as the 2016 Rio Paralympics, winning a gold medal in London and coming 4th in Rio.