Posted 10:23 AM 8/31/2012 : Local Paralympian is going for the gold
TUCSON - Two and a half weeks after the Olympics are over, a new group of talented athletes will put their athletic skills to the test. It's the Paralympics, which feature the best athletes in the world who refuse to let their physical disabilities keep them on the sidelines. The most popular Paralympics sport is wheel basketball and the University of Arizona will be represented in London this year.
Jennifer Proist has been using a wheelchair since she was seven. She's been playing wheelchair basketball at the UA for five years. Next month, she'll trade her Wildcat jersey for one that's red, white, and blue as a Paralympian, representing Team USA.
Watching Jennifer work out, it's obvious to see she's got serious skills on wheels and she'll test those skills against the best in the world during the 2012 Paralympics games in London.
"Just to be selected to this team and get to go to London is an incredible honor and I'm really, really excited," she said.
Excited and a bit nervous, Proist will play before sold out crowds inside the same arena where Kobe and company went for gold just weeks before.
"As I was watching the game it hit me, I will be playing in that stadium in less than a month," Proist said. So it's kind of crazy."
Jennifer is a Pharmacy student at the UA, following in the tire tracks of another former UA pharmacy student, Renee Tyree.
"We even have the same number when I won in Athens -she's got number 13."
One thing Jennifer doesn't have yet is a medal. Renee has three medals, which include a bronze, silver, and the big one, from 2004 - a golden memory that no one can take away.
"I still get teary watching, even today on TV, and anytime a medal ceremony for the U.S. is being played I have that memory flash back every single time."
Jennifer knows the competition will be fierce, but she's confident Team USA won't come home empty-handed.
"We'll definitely take a medal, there's no question about that," Proist said. "We're prepared to take a medal." They're prepared because Jennifer and her teammates workout four to five hours a day, just like able-bodied Olympians.
"There are wheelchair athletes in this country who work really, really hard and dedicate their life to the sport because it's something they love," Proist said.
Jennifer and her U.S. teammates open the games on September 30th against Turkey.
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