As much as we might want to believe otherwise, when it comes to considering and including those with disabilities, society falls shamefully short. We are ignorant of the everyday hurdles that those with disabilities have to face as beyond the physical hindrance, there is a degree of societal exclusion that sometimes controls the manners in which one is able to engage with the world.
This exclusion stems from degrees of discrimination as a result of negative perceptions and a general lack of education. In certain communities, people with disabilities are often viewed as being incapable and to a great extent, reliant on others for many day-to-day tasks. This is of course, a misconception.
This is the great beauty of the Paralympics – it provides a platform for disabled athletes to demonstrate their athletic potential which allows for a celebration of their talent in a way that reframes disability in a positive light. As the sports sphere typically lends its attention to male competitors, it is important that we celebrate the great female Paralympians of our time.
Natalie du Toit
Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, Du Toit has made waves amongst the international swimming community. Butterfly and freestyle are her strongest strokes and she has proven this time and time again, winning the gold medal for both the 100m butterfly and the 100m freestyle in the Paralympics throughout the period of 2004-2012.
What makes Du Toit particularly noteworthy is the fact that, despite having her left leg amputated from the knee down, she was one of two Paralympic athletes to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This makes her the third amputee in history to qualify for this prestigious event. She placed 16th in a 10km swim.
Storey is an icon in the realm of Paralympic sports. She is formidable on land and in the water as between competing in both swimming and cycling, she has taken home 22 medals. It should be noted that exactly half of these are golds.
She was born in England with her umbilical cord wrapped around her left hand and it is therefore unable to function properly. Storey is an inspiration to many aspiring athletes, both able-bodied and disabled, as despite knowing the Australian Open odds, she went for gold – and got it. For this reason, she was a finalist for the BBC Sport’s Personality of the year in 2012.
Yu Chui Yee
The inspirational message of this Paralympic fencing champion has reached from Hong Kong, where she was born, to all corners of the earth. After having bone cancer at only 11 years old, her left leg was amputated. She had hopes of being a swimmer but quickly switched to fencing when she realised that it was her true passion.
Her career kicked off with a bang as she left her first Paralympic games in 2004 with four gold medals to her name. She continued to place in the top three for wheelchair fencing until the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
Today, she works as a radio host and writes for the Paralympic movement website. She has also co-founded the Fencing Sport Academy which aims to introduce children and teenagers to the sport that she loves so dearly.