Nov 03, 2021 / Pediatric Developmental Disabilities

Crossing the Finish Line

Article previously published in Rite Up, 2021 – Issue 3.
Olivia is a vivacious and high-spirited adaptive sports athlete in swimming and running and now a Paratriathlete who was recently chosen as part of the 2021 U.S. Paratriathlon Junior/ U23 Development Team. “I’ve always loved water, so I’ve been swimming as long as I can remember,” 16-year-old Olivia says. “My mentor [Paralympian] Darlene Hunter said, ‘You swim, and you run, so why don’t we throw some bicycle in there and see if you qualify to make the U23 team for triathlons,’ and it turns out I did! I’ve been in triathlons since early this year, and I love it.”
As a Scottish Rite patient with cerebral palsy, Olivia works with adaptive sports medicine and pediatric rehabilitation physician Stephanie Tow, M.D., for her expertise in Paralympic and adaptive sports. “Olivia was participating in more adaptive sports than anyone else I had met in the Dallas-Fort Worth region — swimming, triathlon, climbing and wheelchair track and field,” Tow says. “It was clear she wanted to take advantage of every opportunity in adaptive sports that she could. She has a huge passion for sports and has even traveled to Austin to advocate that the UIL (University Interscholastic League) be more inclusive in schools to include athletes with impairments or disabilities in their sports programming.”
Olivia visited Tow to learn about her provisional Para swimming classification, and during her visit she mentioned having chronic shoulder and back pain. “With my disability, I use my arms for everything,” Olivia says. “I do a triathlon solely using my arms. I overcompensate, which overworks my muscles completely. Dr. Tow really helped me learn how to manage that, so it doesn’t get so bad to the point that I have to stop or possibly get a stress fracture.”

Olivia’s mother, Karen, appreciates having Scottish Rite in Olivia’s corner. “Scottish Rite is awesome,” she says. “It’s very modern in the way they approach Olivia’s care. They keep it real, and that’s what we like about them. Everyone has been so accessible to us when we need them.”
“There’s a misconception about people with disabilities that you are weak and can’t do something, and I like to prove people wrong,” Olivia says. “I like to do more than people think I can because it shows how athletic I am.”
When asked about her upcoming Paratriathlon, Olivia shared what goes through her mind while competing. “I know it’s a huge accomplishment, but in my head, I hate it while I’m doing it,” Olivia says. “Then I cross the finish line, and it all makes sense. There’s nothing better in the world than crossing that finish line. It’s the best feeling.”

Read the full issue.

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