Six U.S. Paralympic athletes have been placed alongside the likes of Tiger Woods and Tom Brady. They have all proven to be among the best competitors in the sports world over the last year, according to ESPN.
Six of the eight 2008 ESPY Award nominees for Best Athlete with a Physical Disability are Paralympic athletes. Matt Scott (Detroit, Mich./Whitewater, Wisc.), Phil Scholz (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) and Marthell Vazquez (Long Beach, Calif./Virginia Beach, Va.) were all nominated for Best Male Athlete with a Physical Disability, while Patty Cisneros (Lake Station, Ind./Champaign, Ill.), Jessica Galli (Hillsborough, N.J./Champaign, Ill.) and Susan Beth Scott (Cape Girardeau, Mo./Colorado Springs, Colo.) were nominated for Best Female Athlete with a Physical Disability.
Cisneros is co-captain of the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team, which will mark her third Paralympic Games. She led the 2004 team to a gold medal in Athens and will resume her role as the starting point guard in Beijing in September. Not only is Cisneros an excellent athlete, but she is an admirable coach as well. Cisneros led the University of Illinois' Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team to a national championship title in her first year as head coach in 2008.
Galli, the 2007 Paralympian of the Year,has broken numerous world records on the track. She was a silver medalist at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney and finished fourth twice in 2004 in Athens. In 2007, she won two gold medals at the Paralympic World Cup and broke three world records on the track at Meet in the Heat in Atlanta, Ga. Galli is currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois working toward a degree in health policy and administration.
"It was a shock, but a really good one," Galli said about her nomination. "I just had a really, really good racing year in 2007. To be honest, it's really nice to be recognized for that."
Sixteen-year-old Susan Beth Scott will be making her Paralympic Games debut in Beijing and is a member of the resident-athlete swimming team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Born with a tumor in her spine, which caused limited sensation in a part of her legs, Scott underwent surgery to remove tissue from her spinal cord. But her surgery did not stop her from trying to achieve her dreams. She began swimming in local competitions at age nine, and had a seven-medal performance at the 2007 Parapan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Scott enrolls in online classes in order to train full-time for the Paralympic Games.
Scott said her world record breaking performance in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials in April helped her receive the nomination. Scott believes all the athletes nominated in her category have shown progress in their sports over the past year.
"They're all great athletes and they all deserve the nomination," Scott said.
Scholz is also making his first appearance on the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team this year. Heading into his sophomore year at Loyola College in Baltimore, Scholz is an athlete with blindness who moved with his family from Munich, Germany to New York when he was seven years old. Although he just gained his American citizenship in December, he has already set numerous American records.
Meanwhile, Matt Scott has become a powerful presence on the U.S. Men's Wheelchair Basketball Team. Scott played on the team at the 2004 Games in Athens and led the team to a silver medal at the 2006 World Championships and a gold medal at the 2007 Parapan American Games. He has also helped the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to three national championships and on New Year's Day 2008, received national attention when he starred in his own nationwide Nike advertisement.
Although Vazquez will not be participating in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, he has traveled the world with the U.S. Paralympics Soccer National Team. He was named the MVP of the 2007 Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association World Championships despite the fact that his team finished the tournament in 10th place.
Shay Oberg and Ryan Kocer were also nominated for the award, competing in softball and wrestling, respectively.
Winners are selected solely by fan voting. You can support your favorite Paralympic athlete by casting your ballot online now through July 12 at 11:59 p.m. ET at http://promo.espn.go.com/espn/specialsection/espys2008/#/voting/. According to ESPN, more than 12.5 million votes were tabulated last year.
The ESPYS will air July 20 on ESPN.