Josh George is a world class athlete at the young age 24.  He has held world records in the 100, 400, and 800 meter distances.  He swept the 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter races at the 2006 World Championships. Because he already is so good, so young — wheelchair racers typically reach their competitive peak as late as their mid-30s — George is a budding star in wheelchair racing, and easily the United States’ top Paralympic medal contender in races from 100 meters up through the marathon.
 
Josh George is the kind of role model athlete we should be seeing in the headlines, and in advertisements.
 
I read about Josh in an article by Alan Schwarz, in todays online New York Times: 
 
 
“George has been paralyzed from the midchest down since he fell out of a 12th-story window when he was 4. The accident — which shattered his legs, dislocated his hips and damaged his spinal cord — required surgeons to insert pins in George’s hips, impeding his leg development, and later led to a fusion of his spine, which stopped his slow growth altogether at 14. He now weighs 98 pounds with legs the size of a 6-year-old’s. “I got hit kind of hard in the growth department,” he said proudly.Determined to be an athlete while growing up in Herndon, Va., George developed his upper body to the point where today his shoulders ripple out of his shirts, he can bench-press 220 pounds, and he can do dips (forms of pull-ups on parallel bars) with 100 pounds strapped to his back. That sheer strength, as well as the pushing motion that is so ingrained in his joints — many competitors weren’t hurt until their teens or later — leaves George with an off-the-charts power-to-weight ratio that is crucial to acceleration. Add to that the dexterity to hit his wheel rims at maximum power up to 140 times a minute during sprints, lungs strong enough to handle marathons on consecutive weekends and an eat-my-dust competitive verve, and George could soon dominate wheelchair racing.”

“If George puts it all together, many in wheelchair racing say that he could be a breakthrough athlete, someone whose talent and personality could attract mainstream United States audiences and advertisers. (Many other nations’ top wheelchair racers — like Britain’s Weir and Canada’s Chantal Petitclerc — are considered national sports heroes, worthy of product endorsements and other rewards.) This could prove crucial for George, because modest race purses barely help him make ends meet; in a few years, like many American wheelchair athletes before him, he could be forced to work a regular job, hurting his training.”

The Paralympic Games will be held September 6 – 17, 2008 in Beijing, China.

A link to the Offical US Paralympic Team site:

http://www.usolympicteam.com/paralympics/

I have a friend, Frank, at the beach who had both his legs amputated.  He gets around on a modified scooter.  He goes everywhere around town, including the supermarket.  Frank does not see himself as handicapped.  He makes the point that living in a dysfunctional family can be a greater challenge.

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