8 Amazingly Abled Athletes and Artists


A few people who are missing a limb, or one of the senses, or have some other physical anomaly are notable for achievements in the very area in which they were supposedly restricted. Usually this has little to do with proving something to the world, and is often a case of someone beginning or continuing an activity they truly love and enjoy. They just don't see any reason not to. However, such unique achievements are likely to make the news. A couple of years ago I wrote a series of posts about people some would consider disabled, but who are noted for surprising pursuits. Since then, I've encountered more inspiring stories for you.

1. Adam Bender

Adam Bender of Lexington, Kentucky was born with a tumor in his leg, which was amputated when he was one year old. Bender plays soccer and football, but his favorite sport is baseball. He tried using a prosthetic leg, but decided it slowed him down. Bender uses crutches to run the bases. His family was inspired to create the Adam Bender Foundation to encourage physically challenged children and cancer survivors to participate in mainstream team sports. See Bender in action in this video.

2. Alistair Hodgson

British soldier Alistair Hodgson was 21 years old and a member of the elite Parachute Regiment when he encountered a bomb in Northern Ireland. The blast destroyed his legs and left him severely wounded. That was 17 years ago. Now Hodgson is the British National Freestyle Skydiving ­Champion. Besides training in his sport and coaching other skydivers, Hodgson works to inspire other disabled vets returning from Afghanistan. Hodgson will compete against able-bodied skydivers for the world championship in August.

3. Lance Blair

In 1988, 18-year-old Lance Blair lost his lower left leg in a horrific vehicle crash.  He was expected to die from his injuries, but instead spent two months in intensive care and six months in therapy. With a prosthetic leg (actually a series of legs as he wore them out), Blair set out on adventures: hiking the Andes, plunging into the jungle, and extensive world travel. He saw constant obstacles that kept other disabled persons from enjoying the life he did, so he founded the organization Disabled Explorers. Blair invested heavily in converted vehicles and specialized equipment and funds excursions into the wilderness for returning amputee and paraplegic soldiers and others who want the opportunity to explore the world -and have fun.

4. Bill Clements

Bill Clements of Kalamazoo, Michigan began playing bass guitar when he was 13. When an industrial accident severed his right hand and forearm in 1989, he didn't consider giving up his passion. Clements developed his own technique for playing bass with a prosthetic. You can hear some of his music on YouTube.

5. Og De Souza

Brazilian Og De Souza didn't set out to become a professional skateboarder. His legs stopped developing when he was young, and he used a skateboard to get around in lieu of a wheelchair. However, with practice he perfected routines and stunts until he became a sensation in skateboarding circles. See him in action in several YouTube videos.

6. Sheila Radziewicz

Sheila Radziewicz was born with thrombocytopenia-absent radius (TAR) syndrome. She lacks arm bones but has hands, and her legs were missing kneecaps. Years of leg braces and several rounds of surgery enabled her to walk. Radziewicz, now 32 years old, has been taking martial arts classes for three years. This month she will test for a black belt in Taikwando, despite having no arms. Radziewicz also works as an advocate for domestic violence victims.

7. Sean Swarner

Sean Swarner is a cancer survivor who climbed the peak of Mt. Everest. When he was 13 years old, Swarner was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. At 16, he was stricken with Askin's sarcoma, a completely separate variety of cancer. Swarner was near death when doctors removed a tumor and a large part of one lung. His restricted lung capacity made the Everest expedition all the more remarkable. He reached the summit on May 16, 2002. Swarner and his brother Seth founded the Cancer Climber organization to inspire cancer patients and encourage survivors to take up climbing and other outdoor activities.

8. Nick Gatto

Nick Gatto is a professional football player who has only half a right arm. His upper arm stopped developing before birth. In high school. Gatto participated in baseball, basketball, football, track, and every other sport offered. He kicked for Blinn Junior College and for Arkansas State University. Gatto joined the Arena Football League in 2002 where he kicked and played defense for various franchises through 2009. He founded a kicking and punting school for all ages in Houston, where he coaches.

For more stories, see the five previous articles on this subject:

9 People Who Did It Anyway

9 People Who Knew They Could Do It

9 People Who Refused to be Limited

Swimming Without Legs: 3 Inspiring Athletes

Dancing on Crutches