I went to high school with Joe Berenyi (Aurora Central Catholic - a private high school with about 500 students TOTAL for all four grades). He was Class of 1987 - I'm Class of 1988. The majority of my friends during that time were from that class, and although Joe and I never ran in the same "social" circles (I hung with the art, music and theater kids - Joe was a football player), I knew who we was. Smart, kind, and a dedicated athlete.
Saturday, Joe Berenyi won a gold medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. According to information in the local newspaper, a construction accident in 1994 took Joe's right arm and left knee cap. Apparently he had begun competitive cycling about a year before this accident. Joe didn't pick up competitive cycling again until about three years ago, and worked his way up to qualifying for the National Team. Only 16 of the approximate 40 National Team members are competing for Team USA in London. And Joe is on one them.
There are three more events that he will be competing in before the Paralympics end on September 9th. I wish these games were given as much television coverage as the "regular" Olympics. I'd like my family to be able to sit down and watch people of tremendous courage and visible differences overcome incredible obstacles to fight for their dreams. I know that all athletes struggle with these things - but I feel there is such a focus on the perfection of their bodies in mainstream sports. I want my kids to understand that just because someone LOOKS different doesn't mean they ARE different.
Congratulations to Joe Berenyi and to all of the athletes - medal winners or not - participating in the 2012 Paralympics. You are amazing and an inspiration to all, especially me.
In case you are interested, check out this video (courtesy of ParalympicSportsTV) of the medal ceremony where Joe received his gold. Bravo!
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