When we arrived, she was nervous, and I was elated. All around me were people with obvious disabilities. People on walkers, in sports wheelchairs, with prosthetic arms and legs, and guide dogs. But no one cared about their disabilities, they were there to train and compete. They were athletes, not disabled people. All ages, all sexes, they all shared one thing in common, and it was not disability.
She spent the five hours going from swim training to track to biking. For track she did sprints on her walker, and then was fitted into a track chair to see how that works. These chairs are nicer than my car, and look as if they cost more. They are beautiful pieces of equipment. She then tried the hand cycle and fell in love. She was beaming and begging me to get her one. ”If I had this, I could go for rides with Dad,” she said, the energy coming right out of her. She did sprints on the bike, and worked so hard through the whole day.
A little girl who was 7, and in a pink chair, also was doing the training, and she was an obvious athlete. She had already competed in a triathlon, and loved going fast and training. I watched how my daughter saw everything this little girl did by herself, filling her water bottle, moving from place to place in her chair. My daughter was watching and learning and growing. As soon as we got home, she wanted to get her own pajamas out of her dresser. Amazed at the inside of her dresser, I realized she never did that. I got her clothes out for her and put her laundry in. She then wanted to help unload the dishwasher and get her own snack. A new feeling of “I can do this” came over her in one afternoon.
For me, seeing these athletes gave me an inner peace of knowing that the future may hold disability, but it does not hold restriction. She can do anything. I have seen it. And for her, she got to see what her future could hold as well, and it is bright and active and very cool.