Local Paralympian Heading To The London Games - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Local Paralympian Heading To The London Games

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SPOKANE, Wash. – The Inland Northwest will be well represented when the 2012 Olympic Games kick off in London – both in the Olympics, and the Paralympics immediately following.

Kristen Messer, 25, is one of the Paralympic track athletes who made the team. 

We had the privilege of sitting in on track practice Thursday, and watching Messer in action.  She's been competing for the last 10 years, and in the trials last month, earned her place on the team for the 100M and 200M. 

Now, she's headed to her first ever Paralympic games, and her dreams are coming true. 

Competing in the games is a dream for every athlete.  But for Messer, it's a particularly impressive achievement. 

She was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects the brain and often impacts motor skills.  For Messer, the part of the brain that tells her how to walk doesn't work. 

"Actually the doctors told my parents that I was never supposed to walk, and whatever dreams and hopes they had for me, put them aside because I was going to be a vegetable on the couch," Messer told KHQ. 

But now, she's on the track in a race chair, training up to 6 days a week, proving them all wrong. 

"The dreams that you have maybe for an able-bodied child are a little different," she said.  "But I'm still achieving those dreams, just in a different way." 

And now, she's setting her sights high – at the top of the podium. 

"Of course, everybody wants to make the medal stand, that's the ultimate goal," she said.  "But realistically, I want to set a personal record for myself." 

Messer is one of the athletes on Team St. Luke, a rehabilitation center in Spokane.  Her coach, Teresa Skinner, works with Paralympian athletes of various sports, and helped coach in the Beijing games four years ago.

She said for most people with physical disabilities, in the beginning, it takes a lot of encouraging to convince them they are capable of achieving their goals.   

Despite the physical limitations of her athletes, Skinner knows the hardest part is the mental game, and not letting their nerves affect their performance. 

"It gets nerve racking," Skinner explained.  "I mean they're wearing USA colors, they're representing the United States of America, and that's a big deal.  It's a really big deal!" 

So when asked who inspires who more, the coach or the athletes, Skinner said: 

"Sometimes it's us that are inspiring them to see beyond what they think is possible," Skinner said.  "Then other times it's them, it's certainly them." 

"We all have something special that we can give to the world," Messer told KHQ.  "We all need to figure out what that is.  Don't just sit there and let life pass you by." 

The Paralympic team leaves for London August 17th, with a lot of people back home cheering them on.

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