Paralympics - 2004

I place this material into the course, not because it is relevant to Astronomy, but because the experience had such a dramatic influence on me and I now wish to impart to you some of what I have learned from that experience

After coaching a private swim club for 26 years, it was time to retire from the sport and devote more time to my family. During the late summer of 2003, an offer was made to me and the opportunity was almost too incredible to believe. During the spring of 2004, the national team trials for the US Paralympic Swim Team was held in Minneapolis. Out of the many athletes with varying disabilities, 2 swimmers from the team I was coaching were selected to be part of the 2004 National Team, and I was invited to go along. Justin Zook, then an 18 year-old graduate of Maple Grove High School, and Anessa Kemna, then a high school sophomore at Orono were selected to swim in a variety of events. Justin's disability was a birth defect that resulted in tens of surgeries to assist his right in growth, while Anessa had been blinded by corneal cloudiness since her pre-teen years. Mike Prout, and friend of Justin's came to Minneapolis for training during the month of August, permitting me the joy of working with 3 members of the 42-member USA team. Athens, Greece was the host of the Summer 2004 Olympics in late August for able-bodied athletes as well as the host for the 2004 Paralympic Games in September. By definition, the athletes who participate in the Paralympics are physically disabled and not part of the Special Olympics, which are athletic events for those with mental handicaps. The Paralympics are divided into category based on type and extent of disability. There would be over 5000 athletes from 136 countries in Athens, Greece to compete,.

And so it was in September, 2004 that my wife and I accompanied the Zook and Kemna families to Athens, Greece. Below is a short photographic recount of that event.

Opening Ceremonies

Justin, Mike, and I

Anessa and her parents and brother

Cheri Blauwett

Athletes from Mexico, Russia, and China

 

Erin Popovich

 

Anessa, Justin, Mike swimming

 

Gold Medals

 

Tom and Cathy at the Acco Corinth