Paralympics, Sports, Exercise, MS and Me

Community Member

"Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play."

~ Michael Singletary

I started thinking about exercise and sports when I was looking through an Ability magazine. I saw an invitation announcement for the Paralympic Leadership Conference (April 29 - May 2, 2011).

I started thinking about Paralympics and how it encourages people with physical and mental disabilities to participate in sports. Competitive play has a profound affect on health and lifestyle. There are more than 130 communities across the country that  participate in making Paralympic experiences available to people interested in a two-day workshop.

During the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, I learned that I could watch Paralympics individual events and track medal presentations on the Internet. That was good because  I never found TV coverage. I was treated to the excitement of watching these events for the first time.

I was surprised to see the wheelchair rugby. This was as tough inside as it is outside, with specially designed wheelchairs that can take rough play without damaging the chair or injuring the player. Players were often knocked down. Officials from the side run onto the court and reset the chair to an upright position.  This fast-paced game was exciting and fun to watch.

Here are two MS Paralympians I found. In 2008, equestrian team Great Britain at the Paralympics in Beijing included two MSers, Simon Laurens and Anne Durham.

Simon Laurens is in the top 10% of the 100 paralympic riders. He began riding at an early age, concentrating on jumping and cross country before he was introduced to dressage. About that time, he was diagnosed with MS, a disease he knew well since his mother and grandmother were both MSers. He decided to retire until friends with encouraged him to continue. His re-entry in dressage so far makes in it look like he has a great career ahead of him.

One rider is a team member for the fourth time. Anne Dunham, diagnosed with MS at 27, is in the most disabled category MS riders, but has still managed to be selected to ride for the British team. She helped win a team a gold medal every time she competed: Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, and Beijing. She also won an individual bronze, silver and gold. I never thought of competing for Olympic Dressage when I owned  horses. We stuck with regional events like barrel racing and other rodeo-stylecontests.. Paralympic medals recognize world class athletes and horses.

Great Britain has acquired more medals for Paralympic dressage in the last 25 years than for any other sport. Equestrian events are perfect for MSers since hippotherapy is such a good therapy for us. However, there are also many other sports that work for us, too.

I am hardly an athlete of Paralympic quality, but I like to watch. I believe it is important for MSers to exercise and remain active, but don't forget to watch.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

~ Theodore Roosevelt

Notes and Links:
My personal MS blog post about Paralympic Games - Down the MS Path