Paralympic athletes share success stories at panel

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Paralympic athletes Shawn Meredith, Jen Lee, Jeff Butler, Patricia Walsh discuss representing the United States.
Photo Credit: Ravin Rene | Daily Texan Staff

Four paralympic athletes spoke Thursday evening to share their stories of succeeding in their respective sports and representing the United States on an international stage.

The Paralympic Games is an international multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities. Sports management students and supporters of paralympic sports packed into the lobby of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports to hear about the athletes’ experiences. 

Sports management senior Jen Lee competed in the 2014 Winter Paralympics in sled hockey and won a gold medal. Twelve years ago, Lee, motivated by 9/11, enlisted in the army. In 2009, he was involved in a motorcycle accident which ended his military career.

Lee’s journey in paralympics began when he was transferred to a station in San Antonio to do physical therapy. During his time in rehab, multiple sports were offered, but he had a background in roller-hockey as a child — so he decided to explore that sport, and it stuck with him. He chose to play goalie, as he had similar experiences in the role when playing roller-hockey as a child.

“I’m currently training for the 2018 Paralympics, and I’m also on the USA development team,” Lee said. “I’ve got a year until the next tryout, so hopefully I’m able to get back into the game in 2018.”

Shawn Meredith, administrative assistant in the UT International Office, was injured in a construction accident in 1984. He tried a couple sports, and wheelchair track stuck out to him because of its speed. During his time as a Team USA athlete in 1992 and 1996, he won five gold medals and one silver medal.

“I’ve always liked things that were fast, like cars and motorcycles,” Meredith said. “I saw people that were more disabled than I was, and being newly injured I was like, ‘If these guys can do it, I’ll give it a shot.’”

According to Meredith, his greatest accomplishment as an athlete was winning gold medals in the 400 and 800 meters in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996. 

The panelists ended the panel by sharing their thoughts on the current state of paralympics and how it can be improved.

Patricia Walsh is completely blind and won a bronze medal in 2015 as a paratriathlon athlete. She is an Austin native and delivered closing remarks to help motivate those in the audience to be more supportive of handicapped children in the community.

“You have to let your children learn what they’re capable of doing, but it’ll be so worth it in the end,” Walsh said.

Services for Students with Disabilities helped host the event. Emily Shryock, SSD assistant director, said on Monday they will also be hosting an adapted sports night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Recreational Sports Center to demonstrate paralympic sports to the UT community.