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Champion Wheelchair Racer Amanda McGrory Pushes 20 Miles A Day

Paralympic gold medalist and marathon winner Amanda McGrory says there's a lot average people don't know paralympic sports. She's hoping to change that.

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McGrory was paralyzed at age 5 by the rare disease transverse myelitis, and it was hard to adjust to not being able to run around anymore. But when she got into wheelchair sports, she met other kids with disabilities, made new friends, and started on the path toward the Paralympics. Now she's part of a team of Olympic and Paralympic athletes sponsored by Citi for the 2012 games in London. At a panel yesterday with the rest of Team Citi, she talked to Shift about what it's like to be a paralympian.

What's the biggest obstacle you've faced as a female athlete with a disability?

There's limited media coverage of paralympic sports, which leads to limited interest. It's really a catch-22 because until there's exposure of the movement and all the really cool things we're doing, that interest isn't going to come. But there have been a lot of good steps toward advancing that lately. This whole Citi program is going to be incredible for us, and the experiences I've had lately with the New York City Marathon and the London Marathon, just really being included with the runners, have really been incredible for the movement as a whole. We can only hope for it to get better.


Was there a watershed moment where you felt paralympic sports started being taken more seriously?

I think one of the huge turning points was the [2008] Beijing Paralympics. Sadly, it's been kind of typical for the Paralympic Games to maybe get the stadiums a quarter of the way full, and even the advertising from the countries themselves of the Paralympics wasn't near what it was for the Olympics. But I think that the Beijing Paralympics really changed that — the stadium was sold out for almost every single event that I did. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. That was a really good moment for media in other countries as well as organizations to see the true benefit of the sports.

Do you have any advice for girls who want to be active in sports, whether or not they have a disability?

Anybody can do anything. Just find something that you want to do and stick with it. That was the biggest thing for me transitioning to becoming a person with a disability from an able-bodied kid was just that you find your niche, no matter what it is. Sports, art, music — there's something there for everybody and once you find it, it makes all the difference.

Do you have arm workout tips?

Most of our workouts are just pushing. I don't do too much lifting at all, because so much of what I do is in my racing chair. I'm just putting in miles, 20-plus miles a day. I live in central Illinois, which is flat farmland, so you can just push for miles.

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