U.S. Paralympians on what they're thankful for

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Nov. 28, 2013, 10 a.m. (ET)

With Americans celebrating Thanksgiving today, USParalympics.org asked some of the nation's top Paralympic athletes to talk about everything Thanksgiving, including what makes them most thankful. Stay tuned throughout the week for more Thanksgiving chatter with U.S. Paralympians and hopefuls. 

Thursday's questions

Non-sports related, what are you most thankful for this year?

Chuck Aoki, wheelchair rugby
“I am thankful this year for my health, as I have stayed healthy for most of the year, which has been a challenge for me some years.” 

Lindsay Ball, alpine skiing
“I am most thankful for my family and friends. Without them and their support I wouldn't be where I am today.”

Megan Fisher, cycling and triathlon
“I am thankful for the health of my family and friends.”

Lee Ford, archery
“I'm really thankful for the health of my family, we have been really lucky this year. Some surgeries and some scares, but everyone is healthy and going strong.”

Josh George, track and field
“I am thankful for the amazing friends that I am surrounded with every day. I am living far from my family in the middle of endless acres of cornfields. My friends make it all bearable, and dare I say, enjoyable.”

Tanner Gers, track and field
“I am most thankful for the huge effort and support of so many individuals coming together to help me publish my book and launch my website. I am grateful for everyone constructing such an amazing end product.”

Cortney Jordan, swimming
“Oh, wow! I have so much to be thankful for! I have the most incredible family and I am thankful for their support as I moved across country this year. I am thankful to have an amazing roommate, Jessica Long. I’m also thankful for my new coach, Brian, and all of the swimmers and staff on the U.S. Paralympics Swim Team. They are like my family. And of course, my friends from all over—college, high school. Every friend that I have has made my life more joyous and loving. Definitely something to be thankful for.”

Kevin McKee, sled hockey
“I am thankful for my family, friends, good health and of course, my wonderful girlfriend Erica who is supporting me through my training for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.” 

Augusto Perez, Nordic skiing
“I am most thankful for my wife and family, who are behind me during my fourth cancer. As a stage IV cancer warrior, to be able to still be here so far to see our twins grow, and to see them to be so good to other kids affected with catastrophic diseases is something I am very thankful for. I am super thankful because I have the best neighbors I could ask for.”

Jenny Sichel, rowing
“I am so thankful for all the support and trust I have received from friends, family, coaches, and teammates in working towards my goals.  With the huge backing from everyone, I am able to continue in my sport and my professional pursuits.” 

Ian Silverman, swimming 
“I’m most thankful for the health of all my family and friends.”

What sports moment are you most thankful for this year?

Chuck Aoki, wheelchair rugby
“I'm thankful for our incredible summer for USA wheelchair rugby, winning three gold medals across the world –Denmark, Australia, and Birmingham, Alabama. This is one of the best teams I have ever been on. Also for the exciting partnership between USA Rugby and wheelchair rugby.”

Megan Fisher, cycling and triathlon
“I am thankful for the opportunities I had this year to stand on the top step and hear our nation's anthem.  I could never have imagined that success I had this year.  I am so thankful and I hope I can carry the momentum through the winter into next season.” 

Lee Ford, archery
“I have two. First, breaking the para-archery standing record for 60 meters when I shot a personal best, and an elite team score over the summer. Second, making it through to the quarterfinals at world championships in Bangkok this month. My archery has come really far in a short amount of time, I'm grateful for the resources I have to be able to train hard and be successful.” 

Josh George, track and field
“I am thankful for the entire second half of my season. It has been a long year of almost none stop racing from April through November, but after a rocky start to the season I was able to become the world champion in the 800 meters at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France in July, and then run three solid marathons in Minneapolis, Chicago and New York this fall.” 

Tanner Gers, track and field
“I am most thankful for my performance at the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships. I was supposed to take this year off due to injuries, but persistence and negligence led me to competition. Showing up only with pain and a focus, I jumped well enough to make the world team. I am now getting therapy though and look forward to crushing it in 2014 and beyond.” 

Cortney Jordan, swimming
“Words cannot express how thankful I am that the Paralympics is going to be televised. I am inspired, encouraged and reinvigorated by the spirit that Paralympic athletes possess on a daily basis. Therefore, I am delighted that the rest of the United States is able to see our athletes in Sochi and Rio. I think it will help attract new athletes to Paralympic sport as well as fans. I am also thankful that I was able to be the flag bearer at the world championships in Montreal. My team voted me into that position, which makes it mean so very much. I love my team immensely and so glad that they saw me as a great representative of our beautiful country. I will never forget that moment.”  

Kevin McKee, sled hockey
“The sport moment that I am most thankful for this year is going to South Korea and playing in my second world championship gold-medal game. We may have not won gold this year but I know that my teammates and I are working very hard to make sure that we win gold next year at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.”

Augusto Perez, Nordic skiing
“My proudest moment was when a week after I finished cancer treatments, I cross the finish line at the world cup in 10th place. It was at the eighth month of my mother’s sudden passing to pancreatic cancer. I wore a purple ribbon for every race. On her death bed, I promised her I would meet the Paralympic standards for both cross-country and biathlon and reach at least on Top 10 place. All this happened while I was in the middle of fighting cancer myself for the fourth time. I could not train through treatments as much as I wanted to. After I finished the race, I went to the side of the course and cried for her.” 

Jenny Sichel, rowing
“I would say that I am most thankful for the moment I realized that all of my dedication had paid off and I was proudly representing the United States of America at Para-Rowing World Championships this year.”

Ian Silverman, swimming
“Winning a gold medal in the 400 freestyle at this year’s world championship is the sports moment I’m most thankful for.”

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