Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teen swimmer's mom fights to make his Paralympics dream come true

Kendall Bailey

Kendall Bailey, 19, who has cerebral palsy, mental retardation and autism, is a talented swimmer, "possibly the fastest disabled breaststroker in the world," according to The New York Times. But U.S. Paralympic officials questioned his eligibility for the games because of his mental disabilities.

His mother, Connie Shaw, objected and fought to make sure her son could compete like other disabled athletes.

“Just because he has other issues, he’s been looked at in a whole different way that hasn’t been fair,” she said. “He’s been singled out and isolated because of his autism, because of his intellectual disability. If Kendall wasn’t autistic, would any of this have happened? Absolutely not.”

The NY Times says, "Kendall Bailey is a rare case of a mentally disabled athlete who also has the physical disabilities to qualify him for the Paralympics. But in April, amid confusion about how disabled athletes are classified both before and during the Games, officials who oversee the American team on behalf of the United States Olympic Committee formally asked that Bailey be ruled ineligible.

"The head of U.S. Paralympics, Charlie Huebner, who lodged the request to render Bailey ineligible, said in several interviews this week that he was merely 'seeking clarification' of Bailey’s status so that his eligibility would be assessed before Beijing."

Now it appears that after two months of fears by Shaw that her son's dreams might be dashed, the International Paralympic Committee says Bailey's eligibility was never in question and he will be going to Beijing as planned.

Kendall Bailey now proudly states: “I’m going to swim for the U.S.A.”