Success requires a process that often begins with simply trying, and Cheri Blauwet is a great example of it. Cheri is a Paralympic wheelchair racer who has won several races in her day, including the 2004 Boston Marathon, and has competed at the Olympic level in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Yet, such accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible if her track high school coach hadn’t encouraged her to start playing sports when she was in the eighth grade.
“The high school part of my career was extremely important because it enabled me to build the skills I needed someday to be very successful,” Cheri said during an interview with BU PRLab.
According to Cheri, she first got involved with sports when she was 14 years old because she found the team to be a friendly and supportive community. “Initially, like most people, I wasn’t very good at the sport, and it took many years to actually develop the talent and skill I wanted,” she said.
However, with every training she completed, she began to fulfill personal goals and reach great achievements. During her senior year of high school, she attended the USP Development Camp for Sports and realized that this could be more than just a fun extra-curricular, it could also give her a competitive career.
Cheri is an excellent example of why it pays off to start playing sports at a young age. It’s a period in life when you have more energy and time, and when you can easily develop and learn new skills.
“If I hadn’t been out there learning every day on the track in high school, I certainly never would have made it to the Paralympics when I was in college,” Cheri said. “You have to start from the ground up and you have to climb the mountain one step at a time, and during high school and middle school you have more time and less external pressures to do it.”
Outside of her athletic career, Cheri graduated from college with a degree in molecular biology and later on she attended medical school. She’s now a sports medicine physician and on a daily basis, she affirms that sports have great benefits, especially for youth development.
“We want our kids, even if they’re not going to be superstars, to have valuable experiences in life. Sports not only enhance physical fitness and encourage a healthy lifestyle, but also help to build self-esteem,” said Cheri.
For Cheri, sports have been an outlet to develop her personality, belong to a community, be active, healthy and have fun. As Cheri mentioned during her interview, “all of those things are so important and we don’t want kids with disabilities to be isolated and to not have those opportunities, they at least need to give it a shot.”
Kids with disabilities can take advantage of events at The Paralympic Experience – a great opportunity for youth to dip their toes into the world of adaptive sports.
If you live in the Greater Boston area and you have a physical disability or a visual impairment, we’d love to meet you at the upcoming Paralympic Experience, happening on April 24, 2016 at Boston College High School in Dorchester. The Paralympic Experience is a one-day, multi-sport, introductory clinic for youth and adults to try Paralympic sports and to meet staff from adaptive sport programs from Boston and across New England. For more information and to register, please visit our Eventbrite page. We hope to see you there!