Not all superheroes wear capes. But they all wear red, white and blue. In honor of Superhuman Day on Sept. 7 — a day which came about because of the Paralympic Games as a way to honor people with disabilities and what they are capable of doing — we asked 13 Paralympians when they felt the most unstoppable. Here are their greatest “superhuman” moments.
1) Amy Purdy, Snowboarding
“I feel my most ‘superhuman’ when on my snowboard, the sun is shining and I can feel strength in my legs as I carve through the fresh fallen snow. It’s moments like these that remind me that no matter what we go through, the sun will always shine and the possibilities of what we are capable of are endless.”
2) Oksana Masters, Nordic Skiing
“I guess what makes me feel ‘superhuman’ is my prosthetics. I feel like I have best of both worlds; I can be 5-8 and then when it comes time to fly across the world I can downsize to 4-0. And no matter what seat I'm in, it feels like first class! While most people see an amputation of both legs as a hindrance, I see it as a unique door that was opened. I choose to see the opportunities through which one is being a superhuman competing in my favorite sport for Team USA.”
3) Lisa Banta-Czechowski, Goalball
Reflecting on her team’s golden finish at the Paralympic Games Beijing 2008: “After four years of intense training, the U.S. Women's Goalball Team found itself with a one-goal lead with only 60 seconds away from celebrating the ultimate achievement, winning a gold medal in the Paralympic Games. Standing between us and the top of the podium was the offensive powerhouse China, the host nation and No. 1 team in the world. It was in that very moment, that despite the deafening roar of the crowd and immense talent of our opponent, I felt peace of mind that no matter what came our way, my teammates and I were not going to be denied victory. When the final buzzer sounded the gold medal was ours and no one could take it away from us!"
4) Dale Dedrick, Equestrian
“After 19 years of formal education and a six-year hands-on apprenticeship, I started my career as a surgeon. Five years later my disability made the practice of surgery impossible, and my world collapsed. But I continued to ride my beloved horses for physical and emotional therapy.
“Riding into the ring at the London Paralympics, along the Greenwich Time Line with the world watching, restored all the power and purpose which had been taken from me. I still miss my surgical career, but I can show the world how to stand up to defeat and disappointment and conquer the world.”
5) Danelle Umstead, Alpine Skiing
“Ski racing is an individual sport, except if you are a visually impaired athlete. You have a sighted ‘guide’ athlete who gets you down the mountain. I feel ‘superhuman’ when I am in a tuck behind my guide and we hit top speeds of 70 mph. My adrenaline is flowing and I can feel the draft of my guide pulling me. And then we approach the finish line and I sling shot past him from the draft. There is no other feeling like it!”
6) Becca Meyers, Swimming
“Every time I race I am fighting three disabilities, not just one. In the water I am deaf, legally blind and I struggle with my balance. Swimming the 400 freestyle at the Rio Games, I was the first Paralympic woman to go sub 4:20.00, breaking my own world record. In that moment, I wasn’t deaf, blind or off balance; I was racing. I had beaten my disabilities and captured my third gold medal. I was superhuman.”
7) Scout Bassett, Track and Field
"At 14 years old, I ran for the first time and this single feat forever altered the way I saw myself and the direction of my life. The exhilaration and confidence I gained through running transformed me from a painfully timid recluse to a young woman who found the courage and strength to beat all the odds."
8) Andrew Kurka, Alpine Skiing
“My ‘superhero’ moment was the year after I broke my back in Sochi, right after I got back on the snow and then broke my femur in a training accident. After all the physical therapy and recovery, my first race back was the 2015 world championships in Canada where I managed a bronze medal in the super-G. It was a moment when I felt destined. It breathed hope back into me and reminded me that ‘I can do this’. It was that tearful superhero moment, through all the pain and uncertainty, that I realized I could make it; that I can still do it.”
9) Roxanne Trunnell, Equestrian
“I feel the most ‘superhuman’ when I'm on a horse. Normally I can't walk very well, but when I get on a horse they loan me their legs and I'm just a girl and her horse walking around without a care in the world. That's a very cool thing for me. Also, I think the connection/bond you have with your horse is incredibly important. When you achieve the utmost degree of that I think your horse will do anything for you. It's kind of like a superpower designed just for para equestrians and able-bodied equestrians.”
10) Daniel Kamber, Swimming
“My goal was to make the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia. I ended up becoming an alternate and did not make the team. I trained hard for the next four years and made the 2004 squad. I believed in myself, just like I believe in everybody else that you do not have to be superhuman to do what you believe in.”
11) Josh Pauls, Sled Hockey
“I’ve had two superhero moments in my sled hockey career. The first was at the 2015 world championships in Buffalo, New York. I was in great shape and knew that whenever I went after a puck, it was going to be mine. The second was right before the final buzzer went off to win gold at the Sochi Games. I felt like we could do anything in that moment!”
12) David Brown, Track and Field
“The moments when I felt unstoppable were when I wrestled in high school. I loved it. I wish we had it in the Paralympic Games! I won multiple conference championships at different weight classes and ranked fifth in my district. I even wrestled with pneumonia once at conference finals and won. I still have all those medals and trophies to this day.”
13) Aimee Bruder, Swimming
“In 1995-96 I was training at Eastern KY University with my coach, Tim Cahill. One of my best events was the 200-meter freestyle, which is a cross between a sprint and a distance. Splitting the race is vital so you do not run out of juice early. One day I was doing a 200 free set with my coach and it came to the last of the 200s for the day. As I was swimming, he was getting louder and as I turned my head to breathe I could see he was getting more animated. When I finished, he was so excited. Not only was that my fastest 200 free to date, but also the splits were perfect — and he wrote that at the bottom of the paper. He was SO proud. I still have that paper in my workout log today!”