The spirit of competition captured in Athens, Greece, during the 2004 Olympics now shifts to the Paralympics.
Thousands of athletes with disabilities from around the globe will be competing in the Paralympics, including several LDS competitors. The Paralympic Games, which begin Sept. 18, feature many of the traditional Olympic events such as swimming, athletics and volleyball. Other sports specifically designed for disabled athletes, such as goalball and wheelchair basketball, complete the Summer Paralympics that are held every four years at the Olympic host cities.
Church members participating in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens include:
• Chris Dodds, 21, a goalball player from Providence, Utah.
A lifelong member, he was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease that worsens with age. Diminishing sight has forced the Utah State University student to give up driving and some of the traditional sports he played as a child.
Goalball is a soccer-like sport played on an indoor volleyball court in which competitors try to roll a weighted ball into the opposing team's goal. Participants wear black goggles, rendering each completely blind. Instead of seeing the ball, players must rely on other senses and teamwork to know where to move, roll and block the ball.
Brother Dodds' involvement with the U.S. Goalball team has given him "a lot of opportunities to talk to people about the Church," said his wife, Brandi. The Dodds are expecting their first child in November.
• Swimmer Carly Haynie is ranked among the top Paralympic breaststrokers in the world and is considered a medal contender in Athens. Besides holding the unofficial American record in the 100-meter breaststroke, she "is ranked sixth in the world," said her father, Lavor Haynie.
Born without a right hand, she began swimming competitively when she was 6. She swam against able-bodied athletes in her Alabama high school, placing 12th in the state in the breaststroke. The 19-year-old teaches Primary in the Madison Ward, Huntsville Alabama Stake, and is an honor student at Calhoun Community College.
• Wheelchair athlete Tyler Byers of Tucson, Ariz., will represent the United States in several track events, including the 800-meters, 5-kilometer race, 10-kilometer race and the marathon.
He is a student at the University of Arizona and has competed in several marathons throughout the country.
• A Relief Society president from Illinois, American wheelchair track athlete Miriam Nibley will compete in the 100-meter, 800-meter and marathon races in Athens.
Sister Nibley, a member of the Urbana University Ward, Champaign Illinois Stake, was a member of the USA women's wheelchair basketball team that competed in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.
• Seminary teacher Jeff Griffin is a member of the USA men's Paralympic wheelchair basketball team. (See July 12, 2004, Church News, page 12.)
Brother Griffin lost the use of his legs several years ago after falling from a barn. Despite his injury, he has remained active in sports — participating in wheelchair basketball, tennis and marathon racing.
Church presence in Athens during the 2004 Paralympics reaches beyond LDS athletes. Some 50 full-time missionaries in the Greece Athens Mission are expected to volunteer during the event.
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