U.S. Paralympics

U.S. Paralympics

Feb. 11, 2009, 11:03 a.m. (ET)
TEMPE, AZ - The Tempe Sports Authority will host the 16th Annual Courage Awards, presented by Irwin Union Bank, on Monday, March 9, 2009 at the Marriott Buttes Resort - Kachina Ballroom (2000 Westcourt Way) in Tempe at 6 p.m.  

Doug Davis, Jessica Long and Jeff Skiba will be honored with a prestigious Courage Award, which celebrates athletes who triumph over individual obstacles to rise above physical challenges or overcome significant injury to persevere and achieve their goals.  Tickets for this very special evening are available by calling 480.940.8666 and include a cocktail reception and silent auction starting at 6 p.m., followed by a live auction, dinner and awards ceremony at 7 p.m.  
 
The Tempe Sports Authority Foundation, a 501c3 organization established the Courage Awards in 1994 through the volunteer efforts of the board and is well known for hosting an inspiring evening filled with stories of courage and determination.  The purpose of the event is to honor exceptional men and women who inspire young people nationwide from the following categories:  professional athlete, collegiate, amateur or local athlete.  Proceeds from the event are used to fund community youth-oriented non-profit organizations and scholarship programs at Arizona colleges.

"Courage, bravery, guts...these are just a few of the words that describe Doug, Jessica and Jeff - the candidates the Tempe Sports Authority Foundation has chosen this year to accept the 16th Annual Courage Award," Dee Robbins, President of the Tempe Sports Authority Foundation, said.  "These three athletes exhibit a courageous spirit which serves as an inspiration to all of us and we are very proud to be honoring three amazing individuals who have triumphed over individual obstacles and share a common spirit to rise above harsh difficulties, persevere and to achieve their goals.  It is our hope that you will consider supporting the work we do in the community by purchasing a ticket or sponsoring a table to honor these deserving men and women in sports who are inspiring role models for all of us."   


The 2009 Courage Awards will be emceed by Daron Sutton, who joined the Arizona Diamondbacks as its television play-by-play announcer for the 2007 season after signing a five-year contract in November 2006.  He was previously the play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

2009 Courage Award Recipients

Doug Davis      

In 2008, Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Doug Davis faced thyroid cancer head-on and made a full and very speedy recovery to get back to the life and the sport he loves.

The 33-year old is about to begin his 10th season in Major League Baseball, where he has been a valued presence on the mound since joining the Texas Rangers in August 1999.

He underwent surgery in April 2008 to remove his thyroid and was pronounced cancer-free in May.  In his first game upon returning in May, Doug pitched seven innings against the Atlanta Braves in a convincing 11-1 win.

Doug never wavered in his commitment to return quickly and fully recovered.  Diamondbacks teammates and fans rallied around him, as did Doug's loved ones, including daughter Drew, son Jordan and fiancée Chantelle.

After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in March 2008, Doug established the Doug Davis Foundation to help children with medical, social and family needs, particularly kids with autism.  Davis also partnered with St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center to create the 49 Fund.  Named after Davis' number 49 jersey, the fund raised over $26,000 for the Comprehensive Cancer Center at St. Joseph's.

Now that the 2009 season is about to get underway,  Doug can once again fully concentrate on adding to the impressive list of statistics he has already compiled.  And baseball fans around the country can continue to gather inspiration from his spirit and enjoyment from his obvious love of the game.

Jessica Long

Already decorated with armfuls of prestigious Paralympic swimming medals at the age of 17, Jessica Long is just getting started.  This Baltimore-area athlete with an unbeatable will has traveled the globe over the last several years, earning top honors in the pool and garnering recognition from the sports world.  There appear to be no limits to her skill and bravery.

Born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova, Jessica was adopted at the age of 13 months from a tiny Siberian town by her American parents,  Beth and Steve Long.  Their adorable, blonde-haired daughter was already an inspiration to them, particularly since Jessica was born without the major bones in her legs, including fibulas and ankles.  It was necessary to amputate both legs below the knee shortly after she arrived in the United States.  Jessica never used physical therapy and began walking on her own.  A natural athlete, she initially was attracted to gymnastics but gave it up in favor of a sport that would be easier on her joints.  Jessica found swimming thanks to the pool in her grandparents' back yard.

The world stage opened up to Jessica when she began collecting swimming awards, including three gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004 - at age 12.  She now holds several world records and most recently earned four gold medals, silver and a bronze at the Paralympics in Beijing last year.  In 2007, she won the prestigious Sullivan Award, becoming the first-ever Paralympic athlete in 77 years to be recognized by the Amateur Athletic Union.  She also earned  an ESPY in 2007, for Best Female Athlete with a Disability, among many other honors.

As Jessica continues to prepare and train for the 2012 Paralympics she continues to discover new interests and abilities outside the pool, including basketball and rock climbing.  In addition to pursuing more swimming accolades, Jessica aspires to be a dermatologist.

Jeff Skiba      

Paralympic gold medal-winning high jumper Jeff Skiba has devoted himself with unparalleled focus to breaking records and shattering perceived limitations.

The 24-year-old is a resident athlete in training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California,  where he is preparing for international competitions that showcase his remarkable track and field talents.  Jeff's left leg was removed below the knee when he was 10 months old because he was born without a fibula.  His lifelong athletic drive propelled him first into basketball and then into track and field.

At the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, Jeff claimed the gold medal for high jump, clearing 6 feet 11 inches.  He is also the first Paralympic athlete to compete at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field National Championships, held in 2007 in Atlanta, where he set a world record in high jump.  Then in May 2008, Jeff did what was previously thought unattainable:  he set an unofficial record by clearing 7 feet at the Azusa Pacific Invitational, in Los Angeles.

Jeff isn't stopping there.  His goal is to try out at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where able-bodied jumpers' routinely clear more than 7 feet 2 inches.  When his track and field career has concluded, Jeff wants to return to college to get a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in education.

For more information, please visit: http://www.tempe.gov/courageawards/ or call 480.940.8666.

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