The Paralympic Games is a grand stage where any individual with disabilities can succeed and achieve greatness as an athlete. Even if the Paralympians do not win any medals, being a part of such an event is an achievement and is something to be proud of. It shows that people with disabilities have the strength and motivation to break down barriers, overcome obstacles, and reach their full athletic potential. Paralympians are nothing short of remarkable. They continue to inspire individuals around the world to get out in the world and make their dreams come true. Dating back to 1948, and introducing their Winter Games in 1976, the Paralympics has grown into an international multi-sport event drawing huge audiences, featuring thousands of the world’s greatest athletes. Here are some of those great athletes.
1. Trischa Zorn
Trischa Zorn is the world’s most successful athlete to ever compete in the Paralympics. She represented the U.S and has won a total of 55 medals in swimming. 41 of them being gold. Trischa Zorn was born legally blind due to aniridia on June 1st, 1964. She began competing at Arnhem in 1980 and her last appearance was in Athens in 2004. Trischa remained legally blind until she received two artificial iris implants in 2003. This did not affect her classification for the Paralympics. Trischa Zorn was inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2012. These days, Trischa works for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
2. Michael Edgson
Michael Edgson, born May 6th 1969, is visually impaired and competed in swimming during the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Paralympics. He represented Canada and won a total of 17 gold medals. Making him one of the most successful Paralympians of all time. Michael was awarded the BC Athlete of the Year on 3 occasions. He was the first Paralympian to receive Swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence in 2009. He was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. Michael set multiple world records for swimming in the 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, and 200m individual medley. He also holds a record for winning nine gold medals in the 1988 Paralympic Games. Michael retired and became the finance director of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
3. Maria Scutti
Maria Scutti, born in August 1928, was nicknamed the “Golden Woman” due to her accomplishments during her time as a Paralympic athlete. She competed in the 1960 Rome Summer Paralympics and won 15 medals, 10 of which were gold; the most to be received by any athlete in a single edition of the Paralympics Games. Maria is known for participating in swimming, wheelchair fencing, and para table tennis. She lost the use of her legs due to a vehicle accident in 1957. While in rehab, she developed a love and passion for sports and started challenging herself by competing in 1958. During her time in the Paralympics, Maria represented Italy until she retired in 1962. She passed away in 2005.
4. Roberto Marson
Roberto Marson is an Italian multi-sport Paralympic athlete who competed in Paralympic athletics, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair fencing. He was born on June 29th, 1944, and lost the use of his legs when a pine tree fell on his back. Roberto won a total of 26 medals, the most of any Paralympic athlete from Italy, 16 of which were gold. Roberto is one of the most decorated Paralympians from Italy. His first appearance in the Paralympics was at the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games. His final Paralympic games appearance was in 1976 at the Toronto games. Roberto died in 2011 and received a posthumous induction into the International Paralympic Hall of Fame.
5. Jacqueline Freney
Jacqueline Freney was born on June 6th, 1992, with cerebral palsy. She competed in Paralympic swimming, representing Australia. She made her international debut in 2006 and her first Paralympic appearance was at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008. At the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she broke the Australian record set by Siobhan Paton (won 6 gold medals) for the most gold won by winning a total of 8 gold medals. That was also the most won among all the other participants of the 2012 London Paralympic Games. She has won a total of 11 medals. Her involvement in the community and working with Swimming Australia as a motivational speaker for disabled individuals earned her the Young Australian of the Year Award in 2014. She was unfortunately forced to miss the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games due to an ongoing illness.
6. Ragnhild Myklebust
Ragnhild Myklebust, born on December 13th 1943, suffered from Polio from the age of 2. She holds the record for most medals won at the Winter Paralympics. She has won a total of 27 medals, 22 of them being gold. This achievement has earned her the title of Queen of the Winter Paralympics. She represents Norway and is a Nordic skier taking part in cross-country, ice sledge, biathlon, and relay races of short, medium, and long distances. Ragnhild competed at the 1988 Innsbruck, 1992 Albertville, 1994 Lillehammer, 1998 Nagano and 2002 Salt Lake Winter Paralympic Games.
7. Beatrice Hess
Born on November 10th, 1961, and affected by cerebral palsy, Beatrice Hess is known as one of the best swimmers in the world. She has won 25 medals, 20 of them being gold, while representing France at the Paralympics. She has competed in the 1984 New York, 1988 Seoul, 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Summer Paralympic Games. During the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, Beatrice broke 9 world records.
8. Reinhild Möller
Reinhild Möller has won 23 medals, 19 of them being gold, during her time as an athlete in the Paralympics. She’s the only alpine skier that has ever won 19 gold medals. Reinhild was born on February 24th, 1956, and lost half of her left leg in an accident when she was 3 years old. She went on to compete as an alpine ski racer representing Germany and competes in Athletics as well. She competed at the 1980 Geilo, 1984 Stoke Mandeville & New York, 1984 Innsbruck, 1988 Innsbruck, 1988 Seoul, 1992 Albertville, 1994 Lillehammer, 1998 Nagano and 2006 Torino Paralympic Winter Games.
9. Sarah Storey
Sarah Storey, born on October 26th, 1977, was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her left arm causing her left hand to be non-functional. She is British and competes in cycling and swimming at the Paralympic games. Sarah is still active and has competed in the 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, 2016 Rio, and 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. She has won a total of 28 Paralympic medals, 17 of them being gold medals. Sarah began her career as a Paralympian in swimming, competing in swimming events, and winning 5 gold medals. She quit swimming in 2005 due to a persistent ear infection caused by chronic fatigue syndrome.
10. Jonas Jacobsson
Born on June 22nd, 1965, with disabled lower limbs, Jonas Jacobsson is a Paralympic sports shooter. He is the most successful shooter in the history of the Paralympic Games. Representing Sweden, Jonas uses a wheelchair and has won 30 medals, 17 of them being gold. He is among the most decorated Paralympians. He participated in 10 consecutive Summer Paralympic Games between 1980 and 2016; 1980 Arnhem, 1984 Stoke Mandeville & New York, 1988 Seoul, 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, and 2016 Rio. Jonas retired following his appearance at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. He was also on Sweden’s Paralympic wheelchair basketball team during the 1988 Seoul Games and played in the Swedish league in 2017.
These Paralympians and thousands of others worldwide did not let their disabilities get in the way of achieving their athletic goals. In some cases, their disabilities inspired them to be the greatest athletes they can be. These amazing Paralympians continue to inspire people every day. Showing the world that with motivation and determination, you too can make your dreams come true.