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Some people love a challenge. Some people are handed challenges they never asked for. Whether from pride, passion, inspiration, or a combination of all those things, some people are willing to do what it takes to accomplish what they aren't "supposed" to be able to do. I remember a phrase from my childhood, used as a comeback when someone is told they can't or won't do something- "You hide and watch me." Here are nine folks who took those challenges and ran with them.
1. Anthony Robles
Anthony Robles was born without a right leg, but never let that stop him from, well, pretty much anything. He runs a mile in eight minutes using a crutch. He played football on the junior high school team. Robles excelled most spectacularly in wrestling. The Arizona State athlete finished fourth nationally in his weight class as a sophomore. Then this year, Robles finished a perfect season in the 125-pound class by taking the NCAA national championship trophy, by defeating last year's champion.
2. Jessica Cox
Jessica Cox was born without arms, and does everything with her feet. Everything includes Tae Kwan-Do (she wears a black belt). And typing. And driving. And flying an airplane. Yes, Cox is the first armless woman to earn a pilot's license. To achieve that, she not only had to overcome her lack of arms, but her fear of flying as well!
3. Emory Martin
Emory Martin was born in Tennessee in 1916 with only six inches of left arm and no left hand. He wanted to play banjo like his father, and learned to use his stump, toes, and teeth to do it. By age 16 Martin won a talent contest and went professional, performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Martin toured with various acts in the 1930s and '40s, then settled down with his wife in Renfro Valley, where he performed at the weekly Barn Dance for many more years.
4. Ami Sano
Ami Sano was born without arms or legs, but is determined to lead a normal life. Now an office worker and motivational speaker, she was part of a cheerleading club at Toyokawa High School in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Sano also wrote her memoirs, Teashi-no-nai Cheerleader, meaning cheerleader without limbs, when she was 18 -so there could be a sequel in the works.
5. Bart Hickey
Bart's brother Brian helped Bart name his automotive business - yes, Bart is a blind garage mechanic. " Bart's Automotive and Towing -Yeah, you know! Blind as a Bat." Bat is often used by the Irish in place of Bart or Bartholomew. Bat or Bateen.
Hickey has been blind since birth, but was always interested in tools and machines. After his father died when he was 11, Bart started fixing his mother's car. He read Popular Mechanics in Braille and hasn't stopped learning about cars since. See Hickey's video interview by Jim Quattrocki at vimeo.
6. Bert Amend
Bert Amend suffered the fate of too many lumber mill workers when his arm was cut off by a saw over 100 years ago. He thought his career, his love life, and his music were all gone forever. But Amend became a bookkeeper, married his girlfriend, and raised five children. And he didn't give up his music, either. Amend was already accomplished on several instruments, and he set about inventing attachments and devices that would enable him to play them again. Through his efforts to share these inventions with other amputee musicians, he gathered a group that became Bert Amend and the One-Armed Musicians. They traveled the vaudeville circuit in the 1910s and '20s with varying lineups, once featuring as many as seven musicians playing as many as 15 instruments. Amend is on the right in this photograph.
7. Pete Eckert
Pete Eckert was a carpenter, designer, and sculptor when we was was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which eventually took his sight completely. Eckert prepared for the blindness he knew was coming by getting an MBA and learning martial arts. Only after he became completely blind was he inspired to become ...a photographer!
I slip photos under the door from the world of the blind to be viewed in the light of the sighted. I view my work during the event of taking the shot in my minds eye. I “see“ each shot very clearly, only I use sound, touch, and memory. I am more of a conceptual artist than a photographer. My influences come from my past memory of art and what I now find in the world at large.
8. Zheng Guigui
Last year, Zheng Guigui performed on the TV show China's Got Talent. The 19-year-old stole the hearts of the audience by playing her piece with only five fingers, as she was born without any fingers on her right hand. Zheng was inspired to begin piano lessons in 2008 and put in long hours of practice to make up for lost time. She uses the knuckles on the end of her right hand as well as the fingers of her left. Playing the piano has given Zheng confidence and a sense of accomplishment after years of feeling inferior due to her missing fingers. Her goal is to respect for her music beyond pity for her disability.
9. Nick Vujicic
Nick Vujicic was born in 1982 with neither arms nor legs, due to a condition called Tetra-amelia. Vujicic has feet, but only two toes, both on one foot. But he graduated from college and became a motivational speaker, evangelist, and advocate for those with disabilities. You can see one of Vujicic's presentations on video. He's also written books. And now Vujicic is a movie star. The Butterfly Circus is currently a 22-minute award-winning short film (available to watch) about a traveling circus and the people who perform in it, and will be released as a full-length feature film -sometime.
For more stories, see these previous articles: