From the Editor: Human Spirit Shines at Paralympics

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By Miki Fairley

Once again, the Paralympics has shown the power of the human spirit. And in this issue, we celebrate that power with coverage of the Paralympic Games in Athens.

For instance, 12-year-old Jessica Long came from an orphanage in Russia to a loving adoptive family in the US and on to sweeping three gold medals at the Games. The inspiring story of Jessica and her family is told in " Delivered to America on the Wings of a Prayer ".

Paralympics Changes Perceptions

John Register went from being an Olympic hopeful to a Paralympic star after a severe sports injury led to amputation. The sudden injury and its aftermath may have caused John's dreams to take a detour, but did not derail them. And now, as director of the National Paralympic Academy, he helps open up to disabled young people visions of the opportunities they have as possible future Paralympians.

In Athens, Register noted how much the high profile of the Paralympics was making positive changes in public perception of persons with disabilities. All over the world, the achievements of these elite athletes help open doors for persons of all ages and types of disabilities--including the doors of their own minds as to what is possible.

You'll enjoy Register's article about the experiences of young visiting athletes and coaches in Athens.

Games Grow Through Years

The Paralympic Games are the second largest sporting event in the world, next only to the Olympics. The Games are run under the auspices of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The "father" of the Paralympics was Sir Ludwig Guttman, who saw the value of competitive sports while working with ex-servicemen at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England after World War II. Guttman staged the 1948 International Wheelchair Games to coincide with the 1948 London Olympic Games.

The event grew gradually, encompassing other sports and disability categories. In 1960 the Rome games included 400 athletes from 23 countries; in 2000 the number had burgeoned at the Sydney Paralympics to 3,843 athletes from 123 countries. And this year saw that number grow again: this time to 3,969 athletes from 136 nations.

In a year that has seen plenty of turmoil on several fronts for the O&P profession, prosthetists and orthotists can reflect on the achievements of the Paralympians and realize O&P has played a role in many of their triumphs. Behind the athletes are coaches, families, friends, their healthcare teams--and the spirit that burns within them. The 2008 Summer Paralympics will be in Beijing, China.

On to Torino!

In 2006, the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, will open up a whole new panorama of achievement in snow and ice sports. And many Paralympians and fans can hardly wait!