Super Hero Week
I met four Super Heros this week. For Real.
Meet Victoria, our first Super Hero.
Victoria Arlen is an Olympic Champion, but being a medal winning swimmer is not her only superpower. Victoria was paralyzed at the age of 11 by transverse myelitis (inflammatory disease causing injury to spinal cord) and was in a vegetative state for several years. Victoria made a remarkable recovery having to re-learn basic functional skills and learn new adaptive skill such as using a wheelchair for mobility. Two years ago she conquered great fear to get back to a sport she loved – swimming. She set a goal for herself and moved decisively toward it. Victoria found a swim coach and asked him to help her get ready for the London Paralympics just one year away. She went from not being able to move at all to moving at record speeds in just two years. That kind of grit and determination in and of itself is a superpower.
Victoria went on to compete in London this summer and won three silver medals and one gold as an S6 swimmer. Check out this clip: (subscribers may need to click directly onto blog)
I went to her welcome home parade in New Hampshire last week. Several dignitaries spoke, as well as her school principal and swim coach. Friends and family shared as well. The message from all of them was clear; Victoria encourages everyone to stay strong through whatever challenges come your way and to dream big dreams. While “rock your disability” became her catch phrase from a CNN interview, she encouraged everyone to rock their abilities. In other words, go big or go home, which is exactly how she fought her illness and excelled at her sport.
So here’s what I think Victoria’s real Super Power is – her grace and her voice. She’s only seventeen years old, a high school senior. The international athletic world is watching her and disability world is depending on her. By pursuing her own dreams, Victoria has also embraced great responsibility. She is not shrinking under pressure. Victoria shares her message with joy and gratitude.
Here’s why this matters to me. Because of Victoria, the world will be challenged to see people will disabilities for what they can accomplish and contribute. They will see humanity and dignity before they see disability and a wheelchair. They will work harder to include people with different abilities in all facets of life.
Because of Victoria, there will be more room in this world for Aidan. And I assure you, he will rock it!
Now YOU have a great opportunity here. Victoria has agreed to a blog interview. I’d love to take your questions. So, what would you ask a 17 year old young woman who is a top notch athlete who uses a wheelchair, has medaled in the Paralympics, and has a message to share? Ask your questions this week and I’ll compile them and send them along to Victoria next week. Also, stay tuned this week to meet three more Super Heros.