Tuesday, April 29, 2008

U.S. Paralympics team drawing from ranks of disabled veterans

Army Staff Sgt. Josh Olson practices competitive shooting.

The Denver Post reports that a growing number of U.S. Paralympians are disabled veterans. As much as 15 percent of the U.S. Paralympic team will come from the 31,000 veterans disabled by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Staff Sgt. Josh Olson, 28, (pictured above) says he took up competitive shooting after he lost his right leg. He has become a top competitor, and after the Paralympics, he'll train for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Olson said his motivation is seeing the many wounded veterans who are much worse off than he is. "I was fortunate. I was blessed," he said. "I used that as motivation to compete at the Olympic level. That's what gets me to try hard and get out of bed every day."

Another Paralympian drawing much media attention is Army 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell. She became the war's first female combat amputee four years ago, and now is a top swimmer.

"This month at make-or-break time trials, she stunned coaches, shaving 17 seconds off her personal record in the 400-meter freestyle and ranking her fourth-fastest in the world," according to The Denver Post.

"I've done more with one leg than I ever would have with two," said Stockwell, 28, a University of Colorado graduate, during workouts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.