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Paralympians 'Dream, Drive, Do' In London

Paralympic wheelchair sprinter Anjali Forber-Pratt says she was inspired as a child by the wheelchair racers whizzing by during the Boston Marathon.
Joe Kusumoto
U.S. Paralympics
Paralympic wheelchair sprinter Anjali Forber-Pratt says she was inspired as a child by the wheelchair racers whizzing by during the Boston Marathon.

Team USA wheelchair sprinter Anjali Forber-Pratt may have won two bronze medals at the Beijing Paralympics, but she told NPR's Michel Martin that competing in London this year has blown her away.

"Oh my goodness, the stadium itself is just unbelievable," she said. "There's about 80,000 fans, and everyone is just genuinely excited to support all of the athletes here. It's surreal."

Forber-Pratt says that the sound from the stadium carries a mile away to where the athletes live. "Whenever there's a U.K. athlete ... you can actually hear the roar of the crowd," she laughs.

Forber-Pratt was paralyzed from the waist down when she was a toddler. She grew up in Natick, Mass., which happens to be the eight-mile marker of the Boston Marathon.

"For me being a young 5-year-old, I saw people in racing wheelchairs, particularly, Jean Driscoll, go whizzing by, going 25 miles per hour," says Forber-Pratt. "It opened my eyes to the world of possibility that was out there, and this life that I could live."

She started "bothering" her parents for a racing wheelchair of her own, and got her start through local organizations that offered programs for kids with disabilities. "My career took off from there," she says.

When asked what life-lessons she has learned from competing in sports, Forber-Pratt points to her own personal motto, "Dream. Drive. Do," and particularly to the word "Drive."

"Whether I'm competing in a longer race or a shorter race, we all have those tough days when ... it's a struggle to have everything come together," she says.

Forber-Pratt says that drive and determination certainly translate to other aspects of her life: She recently completed a Ph.D.

"Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius of South Africa made a big impact on many people watching the Olympics and the Paralympics. When asked whether competition like this changed the attitudes of people without disabilities, Forber-Pratt says, "I think it opens people's eyes to realizing what is possible. Disability or not, we're all athletes here competing."

She says that Pistorius' legacy is putting a spotlight on the Paralympic movement.

"I think that's superexciting and we thank Oscar, and we thank all his competitors and some of my fellow Team USA athletes who are on the track with him, too," she says.

Forber-Pratt is competing in the 400-meter final on Saturday and is excited about an invitation to the White House to meet fellow Olympians and Paralympians.

She acknowledges that there has been progress in the way the London Games have been covered this year, but looks "forward to the day there'll be even more coverage of the Paralympics back home."

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