The Irony of a Paralympic Athlete

Published in the Players Tribune on June 2, 2015

It was like I’d vanished. Like I had slept through my alarm clock and missed the starting gun.

Photo by Marcy Browe Photgraphy

Photo by Marcy Browe Photgraphy

I ran the fastest time in the 2008 Malibu Triathlon, but after the race, someone told me that my name didn’t appear on the leaderboard. Like I had never swum, biked or run the race.

I’d never won and lost at the same time before.

There’s no doubt our society has made enormous strides in better accommodating and understanding the disabled community, but as a blind triathlete who competes at the highest levels of the sport, I’m afraid that our society does not yet fully embrace disabled athletes competing in traditionally able-bodied events.

There is something ironic about Americans’ understanding of disability. If you are an athlete with a disability competing at the level of an average American, you will be praised and applauded. (This is a good thing.) But if you are an athlete with a disability competing at an elite able-bodied level, like I have done for years, you might be questioned by spectators, interrogated by race officials, kicked out of competitions, and even called a cheater. (Not so great.) This has been my experience.

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