If you think life is tough, listen to the wise words of these athletes who have overcome the odds to compete at the Rio Paralympics 2016.
The Paralympics are upon us and the superhumans are back in the spotlight. We’ve rounded up a selection of the most inspiring quotes from the Paralympians of Rio 2016.
When times are tough, look to these athletes for inspiration.
1) ‘Life need not have limits’
‘When you fail, you learn a lot about yourself and come back stronger. Life need not have limits. Having an opportunity in life is important but what defines you is what you do with that opportunity.’
Born without the lower half of both of his legs, Team GB athlete Richard Whitehead holds the world record for athletes with a double amputation in both the full and half marathon.
In 2012, Richard tried to compete in the London marathon but there was no category for leg amputees. He was denied permission by the IPC to compete with upper body amputees, but he refused to give up and instead turned his focus to sprinting. The new discipline paid off when he won gold at the London 2012 Paralympics in world-record time.
Richard, who is competing in Rio at the age of 40, has also run 40 marathons in 40 days, making him the first double leg amputee to run the length of the UK.
2) ‘If you’re not having fun, then what the hell are you doing?’
Chosen by her fellow team mates to be the flag bearer for Team USA at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Allison Jones is hoping to end her Paralympic career on a high.
Not content with excelling at just one sport, Allison has won medals for both cycling in the Summer Games and Alpine skiing in the Winter Games. She’s achieved all this despite the fact that she was born without her right femur, which meant she had to have her right foot amputated as a baby.
3) ‘You only live once and you need to go out and achieve whatever you want to’
‘I’m a normal person, just a lot smaller. I get on with it. Everybody should do that. You only live once and you need to enjoy life, to go out and achieve whatever you want to.’
One of Team GB’s most recognisable stars, swimmer Ellie Simmonds captured the nation’s heart when she won two golds at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, followed by two more golds, a silver and a bronze on home ground in London 2012.
World-record holder Ellie, who was born with achondroplasia dwarfism, started swimming at the age of five and was competing against able-bodied children by eight.
She was 13 when she won her first Paralympic gold, and then went on to become the youngest winner of BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2008, and the youngest recipient of an MBE when she was 14.
4) ‘Don’t tell me you can’t’
Featuring in a documentary called Unstoppables, Juan Jose Mendez Fernandez is a testament to the power of positive mental attitude.
The Spanish cyclist lost his arm and most of his leg after fainting at the wheel of his motorbike in 1992. After a period of great despair, he determined to do something to counter the weight gain he was experiencing from being inactive.
After initially ruling out cycling, for obvious reasons, Juan Jose, who is know as Juanjo, was told by his doctor ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Try, and decide for yourself.’ So he did. Juanjo is now one of the world’s top Paralympic cyclists.
5) ‘We have the can-do factor’
‘We have the can-do factor, and us doing what we do inspires people to just try that little bit harder, whether they are able-bodied or disabled.’
Team GB’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the Rio Paralympic Games 2016, dressage star Lee Pearson is one of the most successful athletes in British history.
He’s competed at every Paralympics since Sydney 2000 and has won 12 medals, of which ten have been gold. If Lee wins just two more golds in Rio he’ll surpass the incredible achievements of Tanni Grey-Thompson and become the most decorated British Paralympian of the modern era.
Pearson’s domination of the sport is all the more incredible given that he began life in a cupboard.
‘I was put in a broom cupboard for three days. I presume they didn’t think I would live,’ Lee, 42, told CNN.
He was born with a condition that meant his legs and arms didn’t grow properly. After 14 major operations, Lee has a form of scar tissue in his limbs where his muscles should be.
Lee is proof that you can overcome anything. He’s allergic to horses and was initially quite ‘phobic’ about disability in sport. After dealing with these obstacles, Lee broke his back a year before London 2012 but made a spectacular recovery to win a team gold medal.
It’s not just his sporting prowess for which Lee should be honoured. He came out as gay in his twenties, which makes him one of the UK’s highest-profile gay athletes.
6) ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’
US swimmer Jessica Long inspired us so much that we featured her incredible story in a previous article.
When she was born with a condition that meant she had almost no bones in her lower legs, her young parents were told they wouldn’t be able to care for her. So, they reluctantly gave Jessica, who was born in Siberia, to an orphanage from where she was adopted by an American couple.
At 18-months-old Jessica had both her legs amputated, but that didn’t stop her pursuing her passion for gymnastics. Forced to give up the sport at the age of 10 for fear of further damaging her legs, Jessica turned to swimming. Two years later she competed at her first Paralympic Games in 2004, where she won three golds. She was just 12.
Jessica, who is now 24, has since gone on to win 12 gold medals in total and holds 14 world records. She was reunited with her birth parents after London 2012.
7) ‘Love what you do’
‘In life, just find something you love and make it your life. That is the only way to be successful. Love what you do.’
‘Hurricane Hannah’ Cockcroft wowed the home crowd at London 2012 with her astonishing speed on the track. The 23-year-old wheelchair racer took two golds that year and her ability has been improving ever since. She now holds three world records and is expected to add to her medal tally at Rio 2016.
Hannah was born with cerebral palsy and within 48 hours of her birth she suffered two cardiac arrests. The resulting damage to her brain left her with deformity in her legs and feet and weakened hips. Doctors told her parents she would never walk, but through their determination Hannah took her first steps when she was three.
8) ‘Everything is going to work out – there’s no other option’
Drawing on her own personal tragedy Team USA volleyballist Kari Miller believes in positive thinking.
The former US army sergeant was involved in a terrible car accident while on leave from military duty in 1999. Her car was hit by a drunk driver – an accident that meant she had to have both of her legs amputated.
After trying a variety of sports, sitting volleyball became Kari’s passion and she has so far won two silvers, at Beijing and London with her team. Kari, 39, credits the Beijing Games with giving her the opportunity to coach and train people for the US’s Paralympic Military Program, which helps wounded soldiers use sport to aid recovery.
9) ‘This is my life and I absolutely love it’
‘This is my life and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve done things that other people couldn’t dream of.’
Reminding us to take every day as it comes and enjoy every moment is Team GB’s sprinting hero Jonnie Peacock, who came from nowhere to take gold, and the Paralympic record, at the 2012 London Games.
Not bad going considering he only competed in his first international race three months before.
Jonnie almost died after contracting meningitis at the age of five. The disease killed the tissue in his right leg, which meant it had to be amputated just below the knee.
The 23-year-old refuses to see himself as disabled, however, and wants to be judged on his athletic ability alone.
The Rio Games is only his second Paralympics and, despite suffering injury problems this year, Britain’s golden boy is determined to become a double Paralympian world champion.
‘Never give up, never give in’
And if that’s not inspired you, James Corden’s ode to the Paralympics will.
As Corden so eloquently puts it, ‘Paras, the stage is yours.’ The best of luck to you all.
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