10 Inspirational Athletes That Shatter The Title "Disabled"

November 01, 2021

A few years back, while I was in Nursing school at Western Michigan University we had an individual that was paralyzed come in to speak about his life.

The man wheeled in on his motorized wheelchair and I prepared myself to listen to a talk on how to use assistive devices to perform activities of daily living like going to the bathroom and brushing one’s hair.

Yet, I didn’t hear any of this.

I did however hear about his excursions in Africa hunting big game with his crossbow (he used a special bow that hooked on to his wheelchair and controlled the trigger with his mouth) and how he was considered by many to be a master painter (I saw several of his paintings and they looked almost like photographs – again, painted with a brush in his mouth).

I was dumbfounded! He also had his MBA and was working on his second Masters’.

The speech was more of a motivational and inspirational lesson on how you should never let your limiting mindset (whether you are disabled or not) stop you from achieving great things.

There was one statement that he made that I’ll probably carry with me for the rest of my life. He told us that it was only after his accident, that he truly started living. I was in tears at the end of the talk and felt like I could achieve anything.

I soon discovered that there are many other people with disabilities that are living their lives as if they were superhuman. The saying, “It is better to live one day as a lion than to live a thousand like a lamb” is deeply inculcated into their spirit.

Below I showcase some of the athletes below that have disabilities but are achieving things most of us only dream of doing.

1. Craig Koonce – Body Building With Cerebral Palsy

Craig (the first name actually Rory) was born 6 weeks premature and weighed less than 2 lbs. He was later found to have Cerebral Palsy.

At the age of 8, Dr’s said he would never see, speak, or walk.

Watch this video to see his amazing story.

Craig Koonce Quote: “I keep positive people around me. So when I do hit those points, they uplift me.”

Scroll to the 6 min mark to see Craig competing in the curl.

2. Kyle Maynard – Fighting MMA With No Arms Or Legs

Kyle was born with no arms or legs.

At the age of 11, he wanted to wrestle and his coach was willing to let him try. From there Maynard developed an iron will and indomitable spirit.

He went on to become a very successful wrestler along with many, many other accomplishments.

Here is a link to his website. Below you’ll find videos about him and a video about his MMA match.


Kyle Maynard Story

3. Mike Schlappi – Wheelchair, Not Spirit, Bound

Mike is inspiring millions even after lying paralyzed from a bullet to his chest.

At the moment of his accident, he promised that he would help as many people as he could, and this is definitely happening!

Check out his amazing story below:

Website: https://www.mikeschlappi.com/

4. Lance Benson – Competing In Marathons Without Legs

Lance lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was born without his left leg and his right leg was deformed.

At the age of one, doctors amputated his right leg and fit him with prosthetics.

This incredible man inspires me to no end. Here is a full article about him: https://www.podiumsportsjournal.com/2007/04/15/the-lance-benson-story/

Benson Accomplishments:

  • Finished with a record of 20-8 his senior year of high school in wrestling.
  • Has competed in 17 marathons.
  • Skates 10 miles to work on a skateboard.

5. John King Brennan – Swimming With One Leg

John has gone through seemingly insurmountable odds.

He had a massive tumor in his leg and a couple hundred in his lungs.

Doctors gave him a 2-5% chance of surviving.

Though I love this quote as a response to this survival rate. John says, “Someone had to make up that 2-5%, I figured that had to be me.”

6. Rick Hoyt – Competing Ironman with Cerebral Palsy With His Dad

Here is another story of a man competing with Cerebral Palsy.

Team Dick & Rick Hoyt back in action.

I have been following these guys for awhile and love, love, love  their story! If you haven’t seen these two, this is a must-watch!

7. Gary Guller – Scaling Mount Everest With One Arm

Gary is the first person to reach the summit of Mt Everest. He is a world renowned motivaitonal speaker and record-setting mountaineer. His story is also amazing. Click below for his website and definitely check out his video.

8. Michael McGrawth – Not Letting Disabilities Stop Your Adventure

This was said about Michael from Sir Richard Branson (Virgin): “Michael is an inspiration. He has a thoroughly positive outlook for somebody facing such adversities.” I start off with that quote because Branson himself is an extraordinary adventurer.
Michael is the only person with disabilities to lead expeditions to both the North and South Poles. He has a great story and I’ll let the videos below and his website (click here) share about him. Though I’ll leave you with another quote this on his website, “Quant Je Puis” or “As Much As I Can”.

9. Louise Sauvage – Winning The Title “Most Renowned Disabled Sportsman in Australia”

Louise was born with severe congenital spinal condition called Myelodysplasia which inhibits the funcitoning of her lower body. Yet even with disabilities, she astounded the world by winning medal after medal in several Olympics. Check out the video below to learn more.
I love this quote by Louise: When I first started off I was in the human interest pages of the paper – the fact that I did a sport and the article was about my sport didn’t matter – I had a disability and it was warm and fuzzy. It wasn’t until I made it to where everyone else was, in the sports pages, where any elite athlete deserves to be, that I thought, ‘OK they’re taking me seriously now, this is good’.

10. Mark Wellman – Paralyzed From The Waist Down Yet Still Climbing

Mark has been a incredible mountaineer since that young age of 12. He has ascended beyond 50 Sierra Nevada peaks. yet in 1982, a descent of the Seven Gables in the John Muir wilderness left him paralyzed. He is still climbing, skiing and going beyond what anyone could imagine. For more highlights, click here:

Show/Hide Comments (2 comments)
  1. Val

    May I add one more. Rick Rodgers, the world’s first wheelchair bound cheerleading partner stunt base. They say Cheerleading is all in the legs, but Rick lost use of his lets in an accident. Now he is the defying all odds and showing the world that ability comes from the heart. He was featured at the 2011 world cheerleading championships in Orlando, and has been working hard to make it to the 2012 championships. Check out his youtube video here: https://youtu.be/3sq6kNDDFcE And if anybody could help send this amazing atlete to the 2012 championships, please donate a dollar here

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Val,

      Just watched the video and am blown away. Rick is an incredible individual and super inspirational. Thank you for sharing the link. He is definitely defying the odds.


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