A Higher Standard
By: Durian Spagnuolo
All across the planet there are many crazy, brilliant, and mind-blowing stories of people that are considered disabled. Most of these stories you never hear about, and may never will.
On April 25th, 2009, Kyle Maynard, a twenty-four year old quadruple congenital amputee, entered the ring facing Bryan Fry for his first and potentially last Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight. Using his nub arms, short legs, and feet, he pursued his opponent who was surprised and retained to some extent. Kyle lost 30-27 by a judge’s decision.
Many people that have never seen him active ask how he moves in sports such as football and wrestling, well he uses his nubs and short feet to crawl and pull himself around, he has prestigious strength. Throughout high school Kyle played football and was a part of the wrestling team starting in the sixth grade. However, all throughout life Kyle has faced a challenge much bigger than any opponent, drill, match, or goal pertaining to a sport. He is missing all of his limbs from congenital amputation of the forearms and lower legs. Life for him is one big obstacle course, but he has learned to live with it and overcome the hardships of everyday life for himself. He comes from Suwannee, GA. His story has aired on ESPN, titled “A Fighting Chance”. Kyle is also the author of a book about his wrestling career and his leadership in life. He has appeared on multiple shows for interviews, is a motivational speaker, has been given multiple awards, and opened his own gym called “No Excuses CrossFit”.
Kyle Maynard is not the only one in this position, over the years many kids have been determined to prove others wrong and accomplish their own self-set goals no matter how high they are, how much it may take, and no matter what odds are against them. Stories such as Kyle Maynard’s and others just like his encourage others all over and push them to success.
Disabled athletes are extraordinarily strong mentally. They feel like they must prove something, maybe its to prove that they are just as capable and equal as anyone else in the world. Motivation is the key, something some people without any disabilities struggle with. Motivation and determination are what these disabled athletes share and common and help them strive to be the best. Disabilities can also open doors of opportunity for these athletes. Many people today are brought into the sport of track an absent leg and get a prosthetic to make running possible. They can also enter the Paralympics set up for the disabled. Many sports even have a wheelchair version of these sports.
People like Kyle Maynard never have a boring average story. Those kinds of people are very rare and many of them wouldn’t change their life so they could have that limb that’s missing or not be disabled because of the disadvantage and separation from a “normal” person makes them who they are today. It is an experience that not everyone condemns.
You also frequently may hear about disabled “number one fans”, stories of cancer patients with a single sports related wish or favorite team seem to always appear and every story is touching in some emotional way.
The truth is that athletic events for the disabled are all around us. Athletes like Kyle Maynard have just created more of a name for them and stick out more. Not everything in life is fair.
Mr. Maynard: “I’ve always believed that anyone can achieve their dreams, regardless. I’ve always had this attitude of no excuses. A belief that I can go on and do what I need to do. To go on, to succeed, regardless.” Disabled athletes are some of my own personal idols and always will be because what they accomplish is something that I will always respect and support. In some way, every single one of their stories are emotionally touching. Disabled athletes should never be looked down upon or given a negative feed, everyone is equal and they set out to prove that they are just as good as anyone else. Kyle Maynard’s book No Excuses is one that every one should take the time to read if not another story the equivalent of his.
Kyle Maynard deserves to be promoted throughout the media along with all other disabled athletes. I never see disabled athletes on sports media channels besides the rare occasion when the Kyle Maynard documentary is featured. Since disabled and handicap sports are not as fast pace and thrilling to viewers they almost never air on television. The Winter X Games and Winter Olympics briefly show handicap skiing for skiers that have lost control of their body from the waist down, called mono skiing. Even then they only show it at a time when the viewings are down and they don’t expect anyone to watch it seems.
One obstacle that potentially stands in the path of disabled athletes is approval to participate. Which means to enter particular events you must be certified or accepted, (laws vary based on the state). Kyle was denied when he wanted to enter his UFC fight, but eventually went to an athletic commission that allowed him to enter. Some people were very cruel about his appearance and the match-up. While some agree, others may disagree. Some say it is fair, while others say it is not. I think that if Kyle wants to enter the fight he should no matter what be able to. He is aware of the dangers of professional fighting and is prepared to take the risk of injury to fulfill his dream. However, the biggest conflict in this story was the fact that he has no hands. With this being said, a major concern for his well-being is raised. In UFC a “tap-out” is when an opposing fighter is put into a submission they either tap their hand or take an unwise injury. There is a big difference between UFC and wrestling.
Some schools across the nation have sports for the mentally disabled/impaired. Also, in many cities you can find wheelchair basketball leagues. Our own school, Atherton High School, had a basketball program for disabled students, which actually did above average in their short season. So far, this year, I have not heard anything about this program and multiple classmates I have asked have not either. Another example of a disabled athlete is an Atherton student named Sarah that participates on the cheerleading team; she participates in games and stays after school for practices often.
Disabled athletes arguably work harder than the regular average athlete. I would love to see these athletes that give so much effort into their sport receive more credit and publicity. If the sports media would focus more on the sports that take more time and effort (e.g. disabled athletes); then everyone’s knowledge of these athletes would be well expanded.