They told me it wasn’t possible- that I would never get there; but they were wrong. Here I am, stood at the starting line. The Olympic stadium surrounded me from every angle- an excited mummer ran through the crowd as the 100m sprint would begin. My fellow competitors were stretching their arms-there was a German woman called Rita, an American called Shannon, two woman of colour whose names I couldn’t quite remember. Then there was me, my heart beating at 100 miles per hour- the sound of thudding blood deafened me. I swallowed long and hard as the heat around me from the arena lights intensified when the announcer bellowed at the top of his lungs-
“ON YOUR MARKS”
My competitors and I bent down, gripping at the concrete hard tarmac- the heat from the smooth surface baking my hands. There was only a matter of seconds- before the race would begin. I took in one final breath and closed my eyes thinking back to one of the earliest memories I could remember.
“She has meningitis” said a man- a Doctor
I wondered what meningitis was, and what would happen to me now I had got it. I was only 3; it had been my birthday a couple of days ago. Now, I couldn’t see anything. The doctors and nurses at the hospital had given me a special drug to make me go to sleep, so that now I could only hear the sound of machines and the sounds of quiet nurses talking to me about things I may like- Princesses, Pink, Dolls; but I couldn’t tell them that I didn’t like those things and I couldn’t tell them that I would much rather plays sport. All I could do was listen.
So when I heard my mummy cry, I knew that something bad was happening to me and I was powerless to do anything about it. The doctor removed her from the room and the rest of the conversation was left outside- away from my ears to hear. The following few days- or hours- passed quickly without words to comfort me, leaving me inside my empty shell. Luckily, it wasn’t long before I could open my eyes; and I woke to my mummy slumped over- asleep in a chair beside my bed. Dazed and confused, I looked round. Something was out of place- something was missing. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stretch my legs when I woke. I tried to wiggle my toes but I couldn’t feel them either. I frowned a little and peered under the covers to see what was wrong with my legs- but I couldn’t because my legs were gone.
I shook myself out of the memory of the childhood illness that had left me without my legs. Looking up I saw the man at the side of the track raising the gun- his finger going to the trigger. I looked forward again- at my target. The finish line was just in sight- and still seemed far away. My heart seemed to slow right down as the starting gun went off. I launched myself off the starting block, sprinting towards the finish; my arms pumping through the air like knives. My prosthetic legs launched me a further few feet with every leap and bound I took. Soon, I found myself half way- almost there. As I ran, my mind drifted to the first time I realized my dream.
I sat in my wheel chair, watching all the other girls and boys play outside in the playground. Tag, your it- is what they would shout. Girls, skipped with skipping rope singing songs. The boys kicked a football to each other in the summer sun- while I was stuck inside. I wasn’t allowed to play with the other children- in case I would injure them, or injure myself. It frustrated me that my parents and the teachers would think that I was nothing more than a china doll that would shatter without bump. It saddened me too because I couldn’t make friends like the other children. None of them wanted to talk to me anyway- I was the girl with no legs. My parents had thought about getting me fake ones but they were worried I’d fall and hurt myself so it never had happened. I had never told them how I felt, how I dreamed to walk on my own pair of legs.
Sighing, I heard a teacher come in. I turned to see her looking at me. She smiled and went to the TV- something that was only used on rainy days.
“How about we watch some Television Naomi? The Para-Olympics are on!”
I hadn’t heard of the Para-Olympics before, and my natural curiosity drove me to see what it was all about; I turned the wheel chair around and rolled over. With a ping, the TV turned on and slowly the image appeared. It showed a stadium with a race track, like the one we used on sports day but this one was much bigger. 5 ladies stood at what I assumed was the starting line. They were jumping up and down, stretching their arms- but for some reason. Not their legs. I frowned leaning closer to examine the picture closer. I watched as the woman lent down before the starting signal sounded- sending the people into a rapid run towards the finish. It was then did I realize that they had odd looking legs. Black shiny bendy looking plastic attached to their legs with what looked like a black ring and metal rods. I turned to my teacher confused.
“Why have they got those on their legs?” I asked
“Those ladies are like you- they have no legs. They have special ones made so they can run like they are now” she smiled looking at me with her round eyes.
A gasp of shock- and excitement escaped my mouth and I turned to watch the woman with no legs run. I stared- in awe at the screen, amazed that they could do such things without the things you needed. Slowly, as I watched race after race, something began to burn into the back of my mind; something amazing. Slowly- the fire engulfed my mind, sending sparks everywhere, linking things together that would have never been linked together before. It was then that I realized that I wanted to be an Olympic runner- and nothing could stop me.
Half way there- my mind told me as I continued to run. The track beneath my feet created a deep drumming sound- sending vibrations into my legs and through my body- to my head. It was the thing that kept me going; the music of the running. My heart pounding, the cheer of the crowd, the gasping of the competitors as their lungs began to feel the strain of getting little oxygen, the wind that seemed to rush past my ears at a million miles an hour. It was a beautiful song and it got louder as the finish grew closer- 3 meters to go. The German runner to my left was just ahead of me. I didn’t even have to see her sprint ahead of me to run as fast as I could- 2 meter to go. We were soon level- occasionally one of us would gain the upper hand and then one of us would sprint faster to reach their level- 1 meter to go. The world slowed to almost a complete stop as the line, crossed beneath our feet.
The Doctor knelt at where my knee should have been- attaching the fake leg that would help me run. It had been a long and hard- almost 7 years I had waited to get these; two fibre glass legs- beautiful crafted glistening at the end of my stumps. I smiled as the Doctor made the last adjustments to the nuts and bolts that kept it secured to my leg.
“They’ll be tricky to master” He smiled “but I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it”
I looked at my mother in the corner- who looked deathly pale. She was reluctant to get me the things, Dad had to break her for me. She was worried I would get hurt or that I wouldn’t achieve my dream. Of course I hadn’t blamed her- she was only doing what mothers should. I knew she would freak the minute I tried to stand- but there was a Doctor and Nurse there to catch me if I fell. I hoped my mother wouldn’t scream for them to be taken off and burnt like she had when I was 7 and had gone to get two prosthetic legs fitted and fell over when testing them out; but this time, I was going to get up and try again.
I nodded to the Doctors words “Cool Doc, I’ll give it a go shall I?”
I heard my mother tense as I slowly pushed myself onto the two legs. My arms flailed and I nearly fell, but I instinctively moved my leg forward and I caught my balance. Slowly, I rose from the crouching stance- and took a step foreword.
For a moment, I forgot where I was. All I knew was that I had just won the race of a life time. The stadium let out a deafening cheer as I flung my arms up into the air with a hoarse cry. I had done it. I had done what everybody deemed impossible. I had won my race at the Olympics. I had achieved, the dream.