Some of the most inspirational stories around at the moment are about people who have accomplished incredible physical feats despite their disabilities. You only have to look at the Paralympics to see what is possible, but there are many people who take it even further. Where once a disability meant you wouldn’t have many options and opportunities in life, they are now seemingly endless. All it takes is a bit of courage and a lot of self-determination.
Geoff Holt was an avid sailor, and had sailed the Atlantic three times by the age of 18. Unfortunately he broke his neck during a dive in the Caribbean Sea, and it caused him so much damage that he would never be able to walk again. Holt was, in fact, paralyzed from the neck down. He retrained after he left hospital, and became Head of the marketing department of an international firm of chartered accountants for 12 years, but sailing was always playing on his mind.
He decided to say no to his disability, and pushed boundaries in order to continue with his one true love in life. In 2007 he sailed solo around Great Britain, entering the history books. He didn’t stop there though; three years later, he became the first quadriplegic to sail across the Atlantic unassisted.
Holt has been recognised for all sorts of awards and achievements, and has even designed and built the world’s first wheelchair accessibly powerboat – Wetwheels.
Lance Armstrong is a disgraced Tour de France cyclist, who has been disqualified for drug use after winning seven consecutive times. When he came down with a life endangering cancer, the doctors gave him only a 40% chance of survival.
Against all odds, and with a lot of support and determination, he pulled through. He won the Tour de France again in 1999, and then was challenged by his two rivals in 2000 who had been absent in 1999. In the race against Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani, he won again with a 6 minutes and 2 seconds lead.
At a height of 19,341ft, Mt Kilimanjaro is an obstacle that most able-bodied people would find difficult to scale. At the age of 31, however, Spencer West completed a seven day trek up the mountain on just his hands.
West lost his legs at the age of five, having been born with sacral agenesis. This meant that his lower spine wasn’t developing properly, and his legs were permanently crossed. He had them amputated below the knees at the age of three, and then below his pelvis at the age of five. He was told that he “would never be a functioning member of society”, but continued to astound and defy his doctors throughout his life.
After training for a year to climb the tallest peak in Africa, he began his journey on June 12 with his best friends David Johnson and Alex Meers for company. Forced to make 80% of the journey on his hands, and the rest on a custom made wheelchair, this truly was a terrific accomplishment.
For more inspirational stories browse the collection of inspirational and motivational speakers at Speakers Corner.