Professional female athletes are badass.
They’ve defeated the stereotype that “throwing like a girl” is a bad thing. They don’t try to be as good as men. They try to be as good as women, and they inspire aspiring female athletes and strong women everywhere to be confident, strong and never assume they’re second best to a man.
This September, the Paralympics will be coming to Rio de Janeiro, where some seriously badass disabled female athletes will have their moment to thrive and shine, and further set an example that they cannot be defined by their apparent setbacks. Their stories are incredibly impressive. Their achievements absolutely astounding. Here’s a brief overview of five of the standout female disabled athletes whose stories will motivate you to never let obstacles get in the way of your dreams.
- Yu Chui Yee
Born in Hong Kong, Yu Chui Yee goes by Alison, and is one of the most elite Paralympians of China. She battled and beat bone cancer at 13 years old, resulting in a partially amputated leg. The wheelchair fencing queen is a seven-time gold medalist, and has racked up a few silvers and bronzes, too. She originally began training for swimming, but was quickly swayed to fencing with an allure for the elegant outfits.
- Ellie Simmonds
At the tender age of 13, Ellie Simmonds was winning gold medals at the 2008 Paralympics. Simmonds, who has achondroplasia dwarfism, is a dominant force in the sport of swimming, specializing in short sprints. She’s even racked up some world records to boot. She’s a household name in the UK, where she was born, largely in part of her performance in the London 2012 Paralympics, where she won two golds, a silver and a bronze. She also broke eight world records by the time she was 18.
- Terezinha Guilhermina
This speedy Brazilian can run 100m in 12 seconds. Requiring a guide to do it, because she’s nearly blind, she is one of the most famous Paralympians alive. Guilhermina has won a ton of gold medals, as well as 10 World Championship golds. For an entire decade, she’s dominated her sport, and done so in serious style, decorating her blindfold with flashy and fabulous designs.
- Zahra Nemati
Along with her haul of fame gold medals, Nemati is a historic figure for her country. Winning gold in women’s archery from her wheelchair a London 2012, she became the first Iranian woman—Olympian or Paralympian—to win gold. Before the car accident that paralyzed her, she was a championship taekwondo black belt, but her determination and athletic abilities outweighed the odds of her seemingly tragic situation, causing her to merely shift directions, and find a new sport to kick butt at. After only 6 months taking up archery, Nemati got the bronze at the National Championships, beating out able-bodied archers as well.
- Melissa Stockwell
Melissa Stockwell became the first female American soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq conflict—a bomb exploding under her Humvee, resulting in the amputation of her left leg. Now having made a name for herself as a Paralympian in three sports, she certainly proves her situation didn’t get the best of her. She’s now become a triathlete—combining swimming, cycling and running, and has won gold at multiple World Championships.