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Friday, March 12, 2010

Ashley Cowan: an Athletic Quadruple Amputee

I have learned about Ashley Cowan while watching an episode of Ripley’s on GMA-7 (TV Philippines). This Canadian swimmer has been featured on the program for her amazing feat of swimming across the freezing waters of Lake Erie with a distance of 20 kilometers for almost fifteen hours. For an experienced swimmer like her who has won two silver medals in the 50 meter backstroke and 100 meter breast stroke respectively and has set a new Canadian record in the 100 meter breast stroke in the 2001 Canadian Games, it might not sound very breathtaking. However, for a person who is a quadruple amputee, it is far more than just amazing!

Ashley was 15 months old when she suffered from Meningitis and the doctors needed to amputate all four of her extremities just below the joint to make sure that she would survive. If you can just imagine, she lost all her arms and legs!

She started using prosthetic limbs when she reached the age of two. Amazingly again, at the age of five, she started to become a figure skater. Ashley showed a kind of courage that is beyond what any physically able person could ever conceive it should be.

On September 7, 2001, at the age of fifteen, she made her attempt to swim across Lake Erie. After fourteen hours in the dark lake floating in freezing waters, at about 11pm, she was almost ready to give up but she and her swimming coach Vicki Keith had a prior agreement that she would not stop unless her life would be in danger. After a few words of encouragement from her coach who was on a small boat, she went on swimming toward the shore. After around twenty more minutes, she reached the shore amidst a cheering crowd and got out of the waters on her own!

All of Canada embraced her wonderful feat being the youngest person and the first athlete with a disability to grab such an achievement. She had these words to those who congratulated her: “Anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Able bodied or disabled, there are no limitations if you are willing to put your heart into it.”

Ashley helps young people especially as an ambassador of Variety Village, an organization that supports and helps children with special needs. She also trains with the Variety Village swimming team. More importantly, she embodies the possibility to rise above physical disability.

Ms Ashley Cowan, another individual who is truly amazing…

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