Members compete in Paralympics

Troy Davis was born with all his ribs broken, two broken legs and a broken arm. "Pray that he dies," said the doctor, "or he'll be a vegetable."

Today, he is a world class athlete with three national records in wheelchair racing. In October, he represented the United States in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, and was a member of the bronze medalist 4×100 relay team. He is a member of the Sunrise Ward, Tucson Arizona Stake, where he is known for his competitive spirit, positive attitude and ability to reach others.

The third of eight children born to Bruce and Starr Davis, Troy was the only one in the family with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, a genetic disorder that results in abnormal bone formation.

During his adolescence, his parents treated him like the other children. He played basketball and football with his brothers, learning to set by himself the many fractures he suffered.

He was 12 years old when a physical education coach at school encouraged him, along with a friend, Matt Parry, to try wheelchair racing. Troy's Olympic dream started in San Diego at a regional meet where he saw his first wheelchair race. "Until then, I'd been racing in a regular chair, which is kind of like running in sandals [compared with] running shoes," he said.

At 19, he chose to serve a mission and postpone his training. His physical disability posed concerns about his ability to serve. But after prayer, he said he felt the "sweet assurance that everything would work out."

He was eventually called to serve in the Texas Houston Mission for 12 months. "When I got [to the mission] I told the mission president I wanted to serve for 24 months. The mission president said to wait and see. After a month, my call was extended to two years," he said.

The summer before entering the mission field, he and his friend Matt attended the World Championships in Berlin, Germany. While there, Troy practiced presenting the missionary discussions to Matt. Several years later, after returning home from his mission, Troy baptized Matt, with his father's assistance.

Troy considers his mission a defining experience in his life. "I learned that there isn't anything we can't do as long as it is righteous and the Lord helps us."

Matt helped recruit Troy to the University of Arizona wheelchair racing team where he received a three-year athletic scholarship. They were the first two in the new program that now includes 14 athletes.

At the Paralympics, Troy was a member of the 4×100 relay team that earned a bronze medal. He also competed in the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes. "I have the fastest start in the world, but there were bigger guys out there racing at a level that was incredible."

Troy and his wife, Jodi Simonton Davis, anticipate graduating in May 2001; he in information management, and she in elementary education.

In four years, the next Paralympic games will be held in Athens, Greece. "I'll be there," he said.

  • Another member of the Church participating in the Paralympics was Dwight Van Tassell who played on the U.S. volleyball team.

    Dwight was born in Vietnam in 1968 and adopted by the Glen and Christine Van Tassell family when he was 5 years old. He excelled in sports and graduated from Georgia Southern University and plans to marry in the Atlanta Georgia Temple in December. He is a member of the Glenridge Ward, Atlanta Georgia Stake, and was also a member of the 1996 U.S. volleyball team that competed in Atlanta.

  • John Brewer, a member of the Kaysville 14th Ward, Kaysville Utah South Stake, placed 6th in the 2000 Paralympic Games wheelchair marathon. A former missionary in the Gulf States Mission from 1969-71, John and his wife, Annie, are parents of four children. He was paralyzed in an auto accident when he was 23 years old. He has since become an avid wheelchair marathoner who has participated in 123 marathons. He won a gold medal and two silver medals in the Seoul Korea Paralympic Games in 1988. As a 50-year-old national champion, he was pleasantly surprised when the national Wheelchair Sport committee told him to pack his bags for Sydney. He currently teaches the 11-year-old boys in Primary.

Please submit information regarding other active LDS Paralympic athletes to: [email protected]