Today’s Dame of the Day is Sarah Reinertsen (May 22, 1975-). As a child, Reinertsen lost her left leg to proximal femoral focal deficiency, a rare bone disorder. She started running at age 11; two years later at her first track meet, she broke the 100 meter record for female above-knee amputees. As an adult, she decided to go long and became the first female above-knee amputee to complete the Ironman. Currently, Reinertsen is preparing for the sprint triathlon competition at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Viktoria Modesta (February 25, 1987-). Modesta began modeling at age 15, but a chronic issue with her left leg kept giving her problems. In 2007, she underwent surgery to amputate the leg below the knee. While some speculated about the impact surgery would have, the move only made Modesta’s career stronger. After signing to IMG models in 2015, she models primarily in eastern Europe and travels to pursue her second career as a musician.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Stella Young (24 February 1982 – 6 December 2014). After earning degrees in Journalism and Educator, Young headed Ramp Up Magazine, organized public programs for the Melbourne Museum, and hosted the Australian TV show, No Limits. Through her work, she hoped to advocate for and showcase people with a wide range of disabilities. Young died unexpectedly in 2014.
After Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon, I’m a slow moving vehicle. Physically, my calves and hamstrings are shredded, making going down stairs a dreadful process. (My apologies to the people behind me who need to get on the subway.) But to some degree, there’s also a great deal of mental recovery that needs to happen. Running a marathon takes a tremendous amount of concentration and focus. As I ticked off each mile, I looked ahead to see the next marker in the distance. This visual cue helped me compartmentalize each mile and allowed me to bargain with myself: “just keep moving to the next water station.”
Photo courtesy of Amy Dixon
But what if you couldn’t see those markers up ahead? Triathlete Amy Dixon does not have the luxury of these visual cues. At age 22, Dixon was studying pharmacy and working as a sommelier when a rare eye disease took 97% of her sight. Ultimately, the loss of sight forced Dixon to give up her studies. But over time, Dixon sharpened her senses to focus her attention and tune out distractions. Through this practice, she improved her skills as a sommelier.
Photo courtesy of Amy Dixon
In addition, this tremendous focus lent itself to triathlon training. Eager to shed weight gain caused by chemotherapy and steroid treatments, Dixon embraced her childhood love of swimming and hopped back in the pool. Over time, she added cycling and running to her skill set. After a guide noticed her workouts and encouraged her to compete, she signed up for her first race. 18 months later, Dixon is an unstoppable force on the course. Last year, she placed second at the USA Paratriathlon National Championships. Ultimately, she hopes to make the Olympic team in 2016.
On race day, she doesn’t go it alone. Pilot Lindsey Cook brakes, steers and shifts the tandem bike while Dixon provides power from the back. Most recently, she started racing with her friend and fellow paratriathlete Colonel Patty Collins. As a colonel in the Army, Collins lost her leg as a result of a cycling accident. The pair completed the NYC Triathlon together last summer. No matter the race, her guide dog, Elvis, is always waiting for her at the finish line.
But while Dixon races with friends, the cumulative expenses of elite triathlon training, fall squarely on her shoulders. Currently, Dixon rides a borrowed bike that doesn’t fit her; purchasing an elite bike that fits will set her back $15,000. On average, Ironman triathlons cost about $1,000, and when she travels, she must book accommodation both her and her guide. All together, a weekend of racing costs roughly $1,500; in order to earn enough points to qualify for the Olympic team, she competes about eight times a year. With no outside funding, Dixon foots the bill herself, but she could use a little help. If you’re able to help, consider donating to her racing fund and keep an eye out as she competes her way to Rio.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Tatyana McFadden (April 21, 1989-). Born with spina bifida in Russia, McFadden lived in an orphanage until age six. Once she was adopted by a family in Baltimore, Maryland, she dabbled in a variety of sports. As she grew older, she demonstrated a tremendous talent for wheelchair racing. In 2013, she became the first person to ever win the Los Angeles, London, Chicago and New York Marathons in the same year. During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, McFadden won the silver medal for the 1k cross country skiing event.
This past weekend was the 2014 Chicago Marathon. It’s always amazing to watch both the professionals, like winner and defending champion Rita Jeptoo, or amateurs, like my NBR teammates. (Shout out to Angela Ortiz for utterly blowing my mind with a 2:49. Jeez!) Days like that inspire me to get back into training.
Photo courtesy of Baltimore Magazine
But one of my favorite athletes to track is faster than all of them. Born with spina bifida that left her paralyzed from the waist down, 24 year-old Tatyana McFadden was adopted from Russia when she was a child. She just graduated from the University of Illinois this past spring and started racing when she was eight. In 2009, she signed up for the Chicago Marathon just for fun and shocked everyone by winning the race. Since her early days, she’s demolished her own times and became the first person to ever win a marathon Grand Slam, winning first place titles at Boston, London, Chicago, and New York in 2013.
Gah, ANOTHER Grand Slam? Go for it! Also, this is coming off of a busy winter where she won the silver medal for cross country skiing, a sport she picked up just two years ago, at the Sochi Paralympics. Keep an eye out for her in a few weeks as she competes at the NYC marathon. Good luck, Tatyana!
For more highlights of the weekend, the AP has a lovely photo set here.