Athletes with MS taking on Paralympic Games in Rio

Following the recent Olympic Games, the 2016 Paralympics start today, also in Rio.

I respect and admire each and every one of the thousands of people with disabilities taking part and fighting for gold medals. To dedicate themselves with such passion and determination deserves the great success that only the very best will achieve.

Among those who are amassed for the Games  are a fair proportion of athletes with multiple sclerosis, far too many to name them all here but I will point out a few notable competitors.

200px-2016_Summer_Paralympics_logo.svgAustralian Carol Cooke who has lived with MS since 1998, is to represent her country at her second Paralympic Games.

She said: “I would never go back and change the fact that I was diagnosed with MS because it has made me who I am today and given me so many opportunities that I never would have had.”

British equestrian Anne Dunham is the oldest member of the ParalympicsGB team in Rio, aged 67, and she is determined to make her mark in these Games.

A keen horsewoman all her life, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after the birth of her daughter and has been a wheelchair user since the age of 30.

The second British sportswoman is ParalympicsGB’s Kadeena Cox will be lining up in no less than five events across two sports at her first Games in Rio.

A promising sprinter as an able-bodied competitor in the athletics’ test event for London 2012, Cox since suffered a stroke and was subsequently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

The young athlete set her mind on chasing Paralympic gold in Rio and now has one of the fullest schedules of anyone at the Games.

“It’s going to be a bit of a busy period,” said Cox, who is competing as both an athlete

“I’ve got the 100m then the 500m (cycling) time trial, then the 400m and the 4x100m relay and then I finish with the (cycling)road race so it’s going to be a busy week because they’re all pretty much back to back!”

Third Brit is swimmer Stephanie Millward was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 17.  In 2012, she was a member of the a 44-swimmer squad to compete. At the Games she won her first Paralympic medal, a silver, in the 100m backstroke S9. This was followed by four further medals. She won bronze in the 4 × 100m freestyle relay (34pts), swimming with Cashmore, Watkin and Susie Rodgers; a silver in 400m freestyle S9, finishing behind South African Natalie Du Toit.

Another silver came as she once again finished behind du Toit in the SM9 200 m individual medley in a new European record time of 4 minutes, 4.40 seconds. Her fifth and final medal came in the 100-metre medley relay (34 pts) swimming with Frederiksen, Cashmore and Watkin. The British quartet were in fourth place heading into the final leg but Watkin came through to finish in second place, three hundredths of a second behind the winning team from Australia.

She is hoping to reach the top step this time around.

The United States is sending almost 300 para athletes, including Jennifer Schuble, who won a gold and two silver medals in Beijing eight years ago, while taking a silver and a bronze in London in 2012.

At just 5-foot-3, Schuble is short for a cyclist, but she has explosive power. She displays no outward signs of a disability at first glance but says her biggest physical ailments are because of MS.

“MS is like an old house short-circuiting,” she said. “So when your core body temperature gets hotter as in when you’re exercising … you start misfiring. Your brain stops communicating. So, as an athlete that makes it harder.”

Another USA Paralympian is army veteran Lisa Coryell who is the first USA woman to compete in the W1 wheelchair category, Lia – as Coryell is known – made the national team after just 14 months of intense training. Coryell has lived with multiple sclerosis for nearly three decades but her disease worsened a few years ago and left her in a wheelchair.

Going back to the Antipodes, but this time New Zealand, 57-year-old Richard Dobson, who- has MS, is one of Chris Sharp’s three-man para-sailing crew alongside Andrew May.


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