#Health & Fitness
6 Badass Female Paralympic Athletes You Need to Know
by Jennifer Lafferty
They’ve overcome struggle and hardship to become the top of the field.
As inspiring as Olympians are, nothing compares to watching the badass athletes in the 2016 Paralympic Games. You’ll be amazed at the challenges these six female paralympic competitors in Rio have faced and the obstacles they have overcome in order to succeed. From the women’s wheelchair fencing champ Yu Chui Yee to virtually blind runner Alana Nichols, these athletes are true heroes, and they’ll inspire you to get up off the couch.
1. Melissa Stockwell
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The training is done. The mind is ready. My heart is full. And tomorrow I get to represent the greatest country in the World on the world's biggest stage. Thank you to everyone who has gotten me here. Family, friends and sponsors. Your cheers will get me to the finish line just a little bit faster tomorrow. Here. We. Go.????????❤️ #readysetRIO @kttape @bp_plc @lifeatdeloitteus @chobani @ralphlauren @smuckersbrand @budweiser @proctergamble
She was a gymnast as a child, but it was a tragedy that thrust Melissa Stockwell into the spotlight. She was first American female soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq conflict — her left leg was amputated — but she didn’t let that stop her athletic future. In addition to a Purple Heart, Stockwell has now taken home a World Championship gold and, most recently, a bronze medal in her first paratriathlon in Rio 2016.
2. Terezinha Guilhermina
It may be unimaginable to most of us, but the extraordinary Brazilian runner Terezinha Guilhermina has won many gold medals and 10 World Championships, although she is nearly blind and must run with a guide. (In fact, world-renowned Usain Bolt even ran alongside.) Nicknamed the “Fastest Blind Woman in the World,” Guilhermina brings her signature brightly colored hair and beautiful eye masks to every event. Besides her physical challenge, Guilhermina also had the disadvantage of growing up in poverty and had to borrow her sister’s sneakers for her first running event, making her triumph even more inspiring.
3. Zahra Nemati
She made history in 2012 by becoming the first Iranian woman to win gold in women’s archery in both the Olympics and Paralympics. But even more impressive was that Nemati did it from her wheelchair. Originally a championship taekwondo black belt, Nemati didn’t give up athletics after her paralyzing car accident, she just switched to archery, and months later won the National Championships bronze against able-bodied competitors. In Rio, she’s already taken home a silver medal.
4. Ellie Simmonds
This popular British swimmer managed to accomplish more by the age of 18 than most athletes do in their entire career, despite the challenge of achondroplasia dwarfism. Not only did she win gold medals at the 2008 Paralympics at age 13, but Simmonds has also broken a whopping eight world records and comes to the 2016 games as a seasoned pro at just 21. So far in Rio, she’s earned herself another gold medal for her display case, and she has more to do.
5. Yu Chui Yee
A women’s wheelchair fencing champion, Hong Kong native Yu Chui Yee not only survived cancer at 13 with a partially amputated leg, but she also triumphed as one of the greatest Chinese paralympians ever, winning seven gold medals in various Paralympics. Better known as Aliso, she started out as a swimmer despite her proficiency in fencing. Watch her shine this week in Rio.
6. Alana Nichols
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Out of the largest @usparalympics delegation ever, a total of 4,530 athletes processed for the @teamusa @rioparalympics…Yours truly….in a random series of events, was the very last athlete through! #savingthebestforlast @nike @nikewomen #parakayak #sprintkayak #teamprocessing #rio2016 #roadtoRio
There isn’t much Alana Nichols can’t tackle when she sets her mind to it. Following gold medal wins for skiing and wheelchair basketball in previous Paralympics, the 31-year-old entered the 2016 games in paracanoeing. Yes, she’s a three-sport Olympian. Take that, Michael Phelps. She said: “I am happy to promote the idea that ‘anything is possible’ including being a three-sport Paralympic athlete.”