Tokyo Paralympics: Wheelchair athlete Amanda McGrory may hang up her boots after 2021 games

7-time medalist Amanda McGrory has won every major competition in the world and thinks it's perfect time say goodbye


                            Tokyo Paralympics: Wheelchair athlete Amanda McGrory may hang up her boots after 2021 games
Amanda McGrory of the United States celebrates winning the bronze medal in the Women's 5000m (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

The 2021 Summer Paralympic Games is just around the corner and thousands of athletes from all over the world will be competing to clinch prestigious medals at the biggest sporting event. Paralympic Games will serve as a platform for many aspiring youngsters to show their talent in front of the entire world and become legends.

Athletes such as Tatyana McFadden, Trischa Zorn, Beatrice Hess and more have performed extraordinarily at the games, winning several medals during their illustrious career. This time, a lot of youngsters will also be dreaming to get their names engraved into the history books by performing their ultimate best on the biggest stage possible. One of the athletes who will be vowing for glory this time around is none other than Amanda McGrory, the paralympian from the US.

McGrory has been a force to be reckoned with since the day she has joined Team USA and shown tremendous agility to achieve what she wanted to. But the journey hasn’t been easy for her and she had to overcome a lot of obstacles to reach where she is right now. From breaking stereotypes to representing USA at the Paralympics, her story has not been short of a fairy tale.

However, it seems like McGrory has decided to hang her boots after the conclusion of the Tokyo Paralympics. In an interview with KOAA News 5, McGrory stated that she still gets butterflies when she enters the arena and things that she's had a great run in her career. She added, "Knowing this is likely the end of my elite athletic career is definitely bittersweet, but I've been told my entire career that you know when it's time to retire, and I feel like I've had a great run."

Before McGrory announces her retirement, let's take a look at her journey and how she became one of the best athletes in the world. 

Amanda McGrory of the United States smiles as she crosses the finish line to finish third in the Pro Women's Wheelchair Division during the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon in Central Park on November 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

 

Who is Amanda McGrory?

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Amanda’s life was going great until she turned 5 and found out that she was not able to walk. According to her website, her parents believed that Amanda was doing this for attention and they took her to a hospital. But they did not get any answers from there. Her parents jumped from hospitals to hospitals to know what has happened to their daughter and two weeks later, she got to know that she was suffering from Transverse Myelitis, which means the inflammation of the spinal cord and interrupts the messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body.

“Now, I imagine this was tough news for my rather green and inexperienced parents, but it’s also pretty hard for a five-year-old to digest. If the doctors could barely explain what was going on to my mom and dad, there wasn’t a chance anyone was going to be able to break it down for a kid. For months, I went to bed every night thinking that because I had woken up unable to walk, one day the reverse would happen: I would wake up in the morning and find that I had magically regained function. It took a little while for me to realize that this was not the case, and I did not take the news well,” McGrory shared on her website.



 

 

Her parents knew that she was unhappy with everything that was happening around her and they decided to take some action. They got to know about the Variety Club of Philadelphia and took her there. According to McGrory, the club changed her life forever and helped in accepting the changes that had occurred.

Since then, the athlete has graduated high school with honors, and accepted an athletics scholarship to the University of Illinois as a “dual sport athlete to play wheelchair basketball and race as a member of track and road racing team.”

Sports became her life

She started playing sports at the age of 11 and was playing basketball at the local camp. The camp made her realize how much she loved being a part of the sport. Apart from playing basketball, she also competed in track and field events and considered herself a sprinter. She was training hard and competing at various events, but she wanted to achieve more. So, she started training hard until her coaches moved her up to 800 metres and then the 1500 metres.



 

 

In an interview with ESPN, the athlete revealed that training with a motivated group of athletes at the University of Illinois helped her in training so that she could take up the sport professionally. However, as soon as she graduated from the university, it was time for her to enter the big league. She participated at the ING New York City Marathon in 2006 and secured first place.

In the same year, she took part in the IPC Athletics World Championships in the Netherlands and won a Gold medal in the 800 meter event. Additionally, she won a Silver medal as well in the 400 meter event. After winning at almost every local and international event, she finally got a chance to don the Team USA jersey and was selected to represent the nation at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. People expected a medal from her, but she took the world by storm and won several medals. She won a Gold medal in the 5000m event; Silver medal in Marathon; Bronze medal in the 800m event and another Bronze medal in Women's 4 x 100m relay.

 Amanda McGrory (C) of the United States, Diane Roy of Canada (L) and Shelly Woods of Great Britain prepare for the Women's 5000m T54 Final Athletics event at the National Stadium during day six of the 2008 Paralympic Games on September 12, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

 

“I am more than satisfied with my final collection of medals. Like every athlete, I strive for perfection in every race, but I'm aware that things don't always work out ideally,” she said after winning the medals.

During the course of her career, she has won one Gold medal, three Silver medals and three Bronze medals at the Paralympic Games. Apart from that, she has three Gold medals, five Silver Medals, and 5 Bronze medals at the World Championships.

Why ‘inspiration’ leaves a sour taste in her mouth

Whenever we see a person with a disability performing good, we always take her or him as an inspiration. However, McGrory feels that sometimes the word “inspiration” can leave a sour taste in the mouths of Paralympic athletes. In her blog, she opined, “Stories like this are known as “inspiration porn” because they reduce individuals with disabilities to objects that exist for the benefit of those who look upon them with pity. By transforming everyday actions into grand, inspirational acts, it’s being recognized that the expectations for these individuals are significantly less than those for everyone else. And, to make it worse, they can only accomplish these activities if they “overcome” their disability. The stories are harmful because their purpose is inspiration, and inspiration alone. And unlike our Olympic counterparts who have the privilege of being see as an athlete first, Paralympians often lack the ability to exist beyond the narrative in the media. Athletic achievements take a backseat to the human-interest story of the athlete.”

McGrory believes that people should keep the word “inspiration” tied to athletic achievements.



 

 

“I want to read stories about game winning shots at the buzzer and the underdog sliding in for victory by 0.01 seconds. Those stories can, and will, be punctuated with anecdotes about the athlete’s life and their personal journey to get to the Games, but let’s not allow those details to overshadow the astonishing athletic ability that we should be celebrating.” McGrory said in her blog.

All eyes will be on her when she takes the centre stage during the track and field events at the Tokyo Paralympics. She won one Silver medal and two Bronze medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and people are once again expecting a commanding performance from the iconic athlete. Without any guesses, she knows how to step her game at the highest level and will be thinking to get hands-on her second Gold medal at the Paralympics.

Tokyo Paralympic Games will be commencing from August 24.  

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