In this week’s episode of The UpBeat Podcast powered by CoachArt, our co-hosts Greg and Roxanne are joined by Deja Young, a 23-year-old track and field athlete who was born with shoulder dystocia that caused substantial nerve damage. As a college athlete, Deja learned of the Paralympic Games, set a goal for herself, and in 2016, Deja won two gold medals at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. She’s here on the podcast to discuss how she overcame her physical challenges and to give tips and encouragement to others so they can do the same.
In addition to her physical condition, Deja had to overcome bullying and even coaches who told her she’d never be an athlete. She now considers herself a better person for having to deal with the effects of her shoulder dystocia. As a professional athlete, she wants everyone to know that chronic illnesses don’t have to stand in the way of your dreams.
Deja was a standout athlete at Wichita State University, winning all-conference honors and leading her team to multiple conference championships. She’s gotten us thinking of other athletes who have overcome physical hardships to excel in games they love.
— Blind from birth, Trischa Zorn is the most successful athlete in the history of the Paralympic Games, having won 55 (!) medals. She was the first visually impaired athlete to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship and she was inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2012. USA Swimming gives an award each year in her honor to recognize a swimmer with a disability.
— Jim Abbott pitched for 11 seasons in Major League Baseball, despite being born without a right hand. He won 87 games throughout his career, including a no-hitter in 1993.
— Due to fibular hemimelia, American swimmer Jessica Long had both of her legs amputated when she was just 18 months old. She went on to become the youngest member of the 2004 US Paralympic Team in Athens, winning three gold medals that year. In 2006, she broke world records 18 times and has won 13 golds throughout her career in the Paralympic Games.
— Tom Dempsey holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history, despite being born without fingers on his right hand and without toes on his right foot. He broke the record in 1970 and it’s been tied since then, but no one has broken it.
— Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, preventing the fingers on his left hand from developing fully. The problem was so severe that his left hand was amputated at a young age. However, Shaquem went on to compete in track, baseball, and football, and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks as a linebacker in 2018.
The UpBeat podcast is powered by CoachArt, a nonprofit organization that provides FREE art and athletic activities to families impacted by any childhood chronic illness – such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, cancer, cerebral palsy and more.