When Femita Ayanbeku got her running blade in November 2015, all she wanted to do was run. It wasn’t about running in the Paralympics in Rio or about bringing home a gold medal; it was about finding her passion and pursuing it. Within Ayanbeku’s first few minutes with her new running blade, she was sold.
Femita’s blade was donated to her by the Challenged Athletes Foundation at last fall’s Ossur Running & Mobility Clinic, where she met her mentor -fellow amputee and Paralympic gold medalist Jerome Singleton- . Singleton introduced Ayanbeku to his coach, Sherman Hart, and she began training with Singleton and Hart at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury. “I just wanted to run. I had my accident 13 years ago, so I have been an amputee for most of my life. But when I put on my running blade, I feel like I have my other half.”
While Femita’s success as a runner has come quickly, it certainly has not been easy. Many Paralympians have had years of experience and training in their sport. Ayanbeku has had to find techniques that work for her in a much shorter period of time. “I have had to figure out what works for me when it comes to my training, my eating habits, and different types of equipment to run with.” Finding herself as an athlete and striving for greatness was a balancing act as she trained for the games in Rio.
At her first race with her running blade, Ayanbeku came in fourth place. Though she was the only amputee in the race and a total novice, she was not satisfied. It was this drive for success that earned her a spot on Team USA at the Paralympic Games last month.
Ayanbeku recalls her favorite moment in Rio, making the finals of the T44 200-meter race for leg amputees. “When I crossed the finish line for the semi-finals and I looked at the board for the finals list and saw my name up there, I was so excited.” The success is even more rewarding for Ayanbeku because competing in the Paralympic Games wasn’t something she ever imagined herself doing. “I literally just wanted to run. I didn’t care where.”
Ayanbeku will join Adaptive Sports New England at the Intro to Paralympic Sports on November 13th at the South Shore YMCA Quincy Branch. This introductory clinic will give children and adults with visual or physical impairments a chance to try sports including running, wheelchair basketball, rowing, golf, and wheelchair softball. Attendees will also meet representatives of many New England organizations that specialize in Adaptive Sports. Ayanbeku, her Rio teammates, and other local Paralympians will be coaching, signing autographs and posing for selfies. “I think that people are scared or don’t know enough about Paralympic sports to participate. Having events like this to create awareness allows people like me to say, ‘we are here to help you. You can do this.’”
This blog post was created by PRLab at Boston University for Adaptive Sports New England