How these two U.S. Paralympians changed the world of sports, and me during the process!

How these two U.S. Paralympians changed the world of sports, and me during the process!

Kelly Reed August 30, 2020  Comments

For my last article I wanted to share with you something personal about myself.  I will be writing about two people who have made such an impact on the world and have influenced me so much.

First, I want to explain something about my life. If you have seen my streams - @onthepitch13 - on sportscastr or from the summer internship, you have probably realized that I stutter - but there is more to me then just my stuttering. I had a stroke before I was born which affected the left side of my brain. This means that the right side of my body is affected. This is a disability called hemiplegia and is better known as cerebral palsy (CP). CP can affect people mentally and/or physically. There are about 764,000 people around the United States affected by CP.  People with CP (and traumatic brain injury or stroke) are eligible to participate in Paralympic sports and my goal is to play for the U.S. Paralympic (7-a-side) Soccer Team and help them win the World Cup!

Nick Mayhugh (@NickMayhugh) is an amazing person and also a great soccer player.  He is a member of the U.S. Paralympic 7-a-Side Men's National Soccer Team.  In fact, he was voted as the 2019 Player of The Year with a Disability - probably because of GOALS LIKE THIS. Needless to say, Nick is an amazing soccer player and leader. Nick's story is a little different than mine. Nick wasn't diagnosed with CP as a baby, but always felt some numbness on his left side throughout his life. When Nick was 14 years old he had a grand mal seizure. That didn't stop his passion and drive for the game of soccer. Nick worked so hard to return to soccer, ultimately playing college soccer and then learned about the U.S Paralympic 7-a-side Men's National Team from an ad online. He contacted the head coach, Stuart Sharp, to see if he could tryout for the team. Nick earned a roster spot on the National Team.  Last year in the IFPCF World Cup he scored 19 goals in 11 games. The team then went on to win it's first ever podium finish at the tournament. Nick has a bright future ahead of him as he is working hard to earn a chance to go to Tokyo for the summer Paralympics to run for the USA paralympic track team.  Nick continues to encourage me and support my goal of being a paralympic athlete!

Jessica Tatiana Long (@JessicaLong) is a Paralympic swimmer. Her childhood story is very different than Nick's. First of all Jessica Long was born in Bratsk, Russia and was adopted at a very young age by parents who lived in Maryland. She was born with fibular hemimelia, and at the early age of 18 months, had both of her legs amputated just below the knee. This made it hard for Jessica to learn how to walk because of her prosthetic legs; however, she was determined and didn't let that stop her from doing anything she wanted to do. She played many sports like gymnastics, cheerleading, and others. However, as soon as she touched the water at her grandparents pool she fell in love with the sport and was determined to compete. Jessica started her Paralympic journey in 2004 when she was 13 years old. Fast forward to today and Jess has won 23 Paralympic medals (13 of them being gold) over 4 summer Paralympics!  She is one of the most decorated Paralympic Athletes of all-time! She will add on to this number next year as she is going to her 5th Paralympics. That's over 20 years of competing!  Jessica is always positive and supportive of my dreams to compete for the US Paralympic 7-a-side National Soccer Team.

I can't thank Jessica and Nick enough for setting such a good examples for young athletes like myself. Jessica and Nick have inspired me so much and have given me so many great tips on how to succeed and follow into their great footsteps. I wish the best for them in their journey and can't wait to watch them compete in Tokyo next year!  

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