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My Paralympic Experience - Zach Abbott

Published by
wctrack   on Aug 28 2012, 04:03 PM

Bear with me as I start this, as this is the first time I have ever written a blog.


For those of you reading this who do not know me or do not know much about me, I was born with a rare birth condition called sacral agenesis, which means that my sacrum did not form at birth, leaving me with no skeletal connection between upper and lower body. In my specific case, both my tailbone and last two and a half vertebrae did not form either.


Even though when I was first born my parents never fathomed I would become an athlete, from the moment I was able to move independently when I learned to crawl, I have loved speed and participating in sports in some capacity, always dreaming, as far back as I can recall, of achieving the pinacle of my sport, competing in the Paralympic Games. The first athletic experience I got was in racing, though not in any serious or organized matter. It was just in my every day wheelchair and indoors, just as any "normal" child runs around in gym class or something similar. I loved it. Pushing myself to the brink, trying to get every bit of speed I could out of my arms and utilizing my momentum to maneuver where necessary. I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. However, due to an irrational, and in retrospect comical, fear of lightning, I insisted that I was going to make a career out of racing inside gymnasiums.


About 4 or 5 years later, when I was 10 years old, I had dabbled in other sports such as basketball, but I had not found my niche. My parents learned that the 1996 Paralympic wheelchair track coach lived in Eugene, Oregon, myself being a Portland native, and my dad drove me down to meet him and check out some racing chairs. The first time I got into one, I absolutely hated it. It did not maneuver anything like I was accustomed to in my every day chair. It was longer and had a third wheel out in front rather than two smaller ones up close but still in front. The turns were stiff, and I was supposed to push with these gloves that essentially made my hands a fist and took even more control of the chair from me based on my chair skills I possessed at the time. In hardly any time at all, however, I came to enjoy the racing chair. I learned how to control it as well as my every day chair, and I learned how to go faster in it. I still insisted on using open-handed gloves rather than the first ones previously mentioned, but even that faded with time as I gained the desire to be more competitive. I learned quickly that, sometimes, to get better at something, you've got to make a change that will make you worse at first even if it helps you in the end. A quick note to explain the difference in the gloves: the 'fist gloves' are actually better for racing because, with open hand gloves, you actually slow down the push rim every time you grab it, while with the 'fist gloves,' you operate based completely on the friction between the rubber of the push rims and the rubber of the gloves, creating a constant speed and motion that does not slow the rim down.


That was the start of my athletic journey, and now, many junior national and junior world championships later, as well as a Parapan American Games underneath my belt, I have arrived at my dream destination, the Paralympic Games. Words cannot express how I feel about this honor, this chance to represent my country, this blessing from God and the drive I had to work for this chance. I have never forgotten where I came from, the tiny little kid with big dreams who hated his first taste of that which he would later come to love more than any activity to he's experienced to date. Every person I have met along the way to this point in my life has helped me get here in some fashion. This chance is not through my work alone. Without the grace of God and help of my parents, I wouldn't have even gotten started, let alone continued. I would not have made it to this point were it not for every friend, every rival, every teammate, every coach I've had along the way. They've shaped who I am and how I approach my sport, my passion. I could never thank any of them enough.


And now here I am, in my room in the athlete village, just over 24 hours away from the Opening Ceremonies to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. On Sunday I will start my racing regiment with the 400, followed by the 100, 800, and 200 before my experience is finished here. I am more than honored to be representing the United States of America on this stage, and I plan to make the most of it. It's still surreal and teetering on the edge of overwhelming, but starting tomorrow night I will be caught up in the moment of the Games, and I will not be shaken from my pursuit of hopefully at least one podium finish, if not more. This is what everyone and everything on my journey has led to, and I have no intentions of letting down those supporting me back home and perhaps all over the world.

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4 comment(s)  
Good work Zach - now go fast and have fun!
Chris Nickinson
Good luck!
Proud beyond words! Mom
Thanks for sharing your story Zach...although I know alot about you....I didn't know some of the details....love and support you always!!! Phyllis
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