Williams Stewart help win the Men's 1x2.5/2x5 km Relay Open at the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City
It’s been 18 years since William Stewart’s silver medal at the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, but he’s still competing like he’s in the prime of his athletic career.
Just last week TeamUSA.org had to catch up with him at the end of the Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 in which bikers navigate 440 miles of Idaho terrain for five days. It’s something most wouldn’t expect a Para athlete to be able to do but that’s exactly where he’s most comfortable.
In fact, “One-Arm Willie” Stewart, as his mentees and fellow athletes know him, said he’s motivated to do things people wouldn’t expect him to do because he was once one of those able-bodied doubters.
Stewart lost his left arm in a construction site accident in 1980 and had to run a mile on foot to the nearest hospital while carrying the arm out of the socket.
Before the accident, he was a state champion wrestler and competed in football and rugby but was hesitant to go back to team sports because of a fear of failure. When he decided to get back on the rugby field, he excelled.
“I was actually better at it with one hand than I ever was [with] two because I was so much more aggressive and almost willing to take things to an extreme because I was left out and I didn't ever want to get left out again,” he said.
Here he was captaining the Washington Rugby Football Club to three straight championship games in elite-level American rugby, and he’s playing with one arm. Still, Stewart had no idea what the Paralympic Movement was.