They have obliterated the ‘throwing like a girl’ stereotype, with every swim stroke, sprint dash, and ski record. They don’t focus on being as great as men, but rather, as passionate and devoted as women can be. These inspiring women are icons to aspiring female athletes, and anyone looking to achieve a dream- amidst difficulty and being disabled.
These disabled female athletes deserve recognition for never allowing their impaired physical state put in a dent in their groundbreaking careers or passions- and never compare their feats to those of men. These professional basketball players, skiers, swimmers, surfers, and more have extraordinary stories- and HFR is here to share them. You can also read about their 10 fittest male counterparts here.
We present to you 2017’s list of the Top 10 Fittest Disabled Athletes (Females)
Chelsea McClammer- 23
- ESPY award winning Paralympic athlete, Chelsea McClammer began adjusting to her disability at the young age of 6- following a paralyzing car accident.
- Although McClammer was paralyzed from the waist down, she still pursued her passion of sports by joining the U.S. Paralympic track team.
- In 2008, she was named the youngest member of USA’s Paralympic squad, highlighting her dedication and persistent hard work.
- McClammer made history, yet again, after finishing in first place at the Bloomsday Road Race in Spokane, Wash., and setting the female course record.
- In the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara in 2011, Chelsea was honored with a whopping six medals.
- That same year, she also became a member of the IPC Athletics World Championships team and was honored with an ESPY award.
- “As a kid, track was just something to do. But as I grew up, I realized that I loved it. It’s brought me huge opportunities and allowed me to go to amazing places. It’s a part of my life now.” -Chelsea McClammer
Alana Nichols- 34
- American Paralympic basketball star, Alana Nichols, was injured during a snowboarding trip at the age of 17.
- Alana’s paralyzing injury occurred after she attempted to backflip on her snowboard- resulting in a traumatic back injury.
- Nichols managed to put her trauma behind her by throwing herself into her passion of basketball.
- In 2008, Nichols earned a gold medal with her team in the Beijing Olympics.
- After accomplishing this feat, Alana decided to give snow sports another try and took up skiing.
- Skiing was in instant success for Alana, who trumped Laurie Stephens—a Paralympic gold medalist—in the Super G at the 2009 North American Cup.
- This diversely talented athlete also won four medals at the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver.
- “There’s a lot more to people with disabilities than what you see. Strangely enough, my disability is not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me[…] It’s important for people to understand that life doesn’t discriminate. We’re human and we’re doing the best that we can.” -Alana Nichols
Melissa Stockwell- 37
- Two-time Paralympian and former U.S. Army officer, Melissa Stockwell, was the first female soldier to lose a limb- after a bomb exploded near her military truck.
- After losing her leg in this traumatic experience, Melissa proved herself to be both brave and courageous by becoming the first Iraq veteran to participate in the Paralympics.
- In 2008, Stockwell contended in the 100-meter butterfly, 100-meter freestyle, and 400-meter freestyle- finishing in sixth, fifth and fourth place, respectively.
- She also achieved gold medals for three consecutive years at the ITU Triathlon World Championship- through 2010-12.
- Melissa returned to race in the 2016 Paralympic Games, taking home the Bronze medal in the inaugural Paratriathlon event.
- Melissa remains a history maker by holding her place as the top-ranked athlete in the women’s TRI-2 class.
- Not only is Melissa a veteran and Paralympic star, she also works as prosthetist and is a member of the board of directors of the Wounded Warrior Project.
- “Ten years ago, my goal was to learn to live an independent life with a prosthetic leg. And now my goal is to train as hard as I can to make the Paralympic team and to do well in Rio.” -Melissa Stockwell
Bethany Hamilton- 27
- In dedication to this bold and talented surfer, Hollywood produced a tribute movie- Soul Surfer, which portrays the life of Bethany Hamilton.
- In 2003, this pro surfer and Hawaii native was injured by a shark at the young age of 13.
- Although this tragic event ended in Bethany losing her left arm, she sure as heck didn’t lose her passion.
- Within a month, Hamilton was back in the water, utilizing a board tailored for her disability.
- Fast forward a few months later to 2004- Hamilton began competing again.
- Hamilton won first place in both the NSSA National Competition and O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro tournament.
- In the 2009 ASP World Junior Championship in Australia, she came in second place.
- In addition to surfing, this brave surfer also partakes in spreading her passion- via motivational speaking events
- “I’ve learned life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up, because you never know what’s over the next wave[…] and if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all.” -Bethany Hamilton
Natalie Du Toit- 33
- South African swimmer and gold medalist, Natalie Du Toit, survived a scary accident at the age of 17- after getting struck by a car while riding her scooter.
- The talented swimmer had been competing since the age of 14- making this incident an unfortunate- yet promising setback.
- Three months after her leg amputation, Du Toit was back in the water.
- Du Toit accomplished many feats in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympics.
- This talented swimmer even made history by competing and beating able-bodied swimmers in the Olympics.
- In 2008, Du Toit was one of two Paralympians to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
- After finishing in fourth place, at the 10K World Championships in Spain, she qualified to participate in the Beijing Olympics.
- In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Du Toit competed without the help of a prosthesis, finishing in 16th place.
- “If I can achieve my dream, then anyone can.” -Natalie Du Toit
Jessica Long- 25
- Russian-born United States Paralympic swimmer, Jessica Long, has held multiple world records and has won multiple gold medals over the course of four Summer Paralympics.
- Believe it or not, Long has won a total of 23 Paralympic medals.
- Long was born with fibular hemimelia, which resulted in her having to amputate both legs at 18 months.
- At the blossoming age of 12, Long embarked her Paralympic career- with the assistance of Prosthetic legs.
- In 2004, Long landed a spot as the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Team in Athens, where she earned three gold medals.
- Two years later, Long make 18 world records and took home a total of nine gold medals in nine events at the South African IPC Swimming World Championships.
- In the 08 Beijing Olympics, she took home a prodigious number of wins- totaling up to four gold medals.
- More recently, in the 2016 Paralympic summer games, Long took home a total of six medals- one gold, three silver and and two bronze.
- Jessica Long was honored for her tremendous feats after being awarded the U.S. Paralympic Sportswoman of the Year.
- “I’ve never viewed myself as disabled. Putting on shoes is hard for me, but at the end of the day, I’m still putting on shoes like everyone else — mine just happen to be really tall. I believe I can do whatever I set my mind to.” -Jessica Long
Natalia Partyka- 27
- Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka participates in both Paralympic competitions, and competitions for able-bodied athletes.
- This talented tennis player was born without a right hand, making her a left handed champion.
- Partyka began her career at the age of seven- winning her first table tennis medal in the 1999 disabled World Championships.
- She also competed at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney at the chaste age of 11, becoming one of world’s youngest Paralympic athletes.
- Four years later, she won a gold medal in the singles event, and a silver medal in the team event at the Athens Paralympics.
- She represented Poland in both the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, taking home both gold and silver.
- In more recent years, She took home the Gold in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
- “All defeats are unpleasant but in sport they are unavoidable. In my opinion they are important because they learning a lot and sometimes show you another side of table tennis. Sometimes they can open your eyes and help come back on the good way.” -Natalia Partyka
Aimee Mullins- 40
- American athlete, actress, speaker and model, Aimee Mullins was born with fibular hemimelia, which resulted in the amputation of both of her lower legs.
- This tenacious track and softball star started her career by breaking the youth league record for stolen bases in softball in history.
- Aimee is the first amputee in history to have competed in the NCAA, not to mention she competed against able-bodied athletes.
- She competed in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, setting World Records in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and the long jump before retiring two years later.
- Following her retirement, Mullins was appointed Chef de Mission (leader of the U.S. delegation) for the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London- a tremendous honor.
- This multi-faceted boss lady is still famous around the world, making appearances as a motivational and innovative speaker.
- Her TED conference talks are amongst the most-viewed of all time and have been translated into 42 languages.
- Sports Illustrated magazine dubbed her one of the ‘Coolest Girls in Sports’.
- “The idea of prosthetics is a tool. Most people’s cell phones are prosthetics. If you leave your cell phone at home, you feel impacted by not having it. It’s an important part of your daily function and what you can do in a day.” -Aimee Muller on disability stigma
Tatyana McFadden- 27
- With 17 Paralympic medals under her belt, it’s no surprise this tenacious Russian-born athlete began her career at the young age of 8.
- Tatyana McFadden, who was born with spina bifida, was abandoned by her mother in an orphanage after realizing she was paralyzed from the waist down.
- With no money for a wheelchair, McFadden was forced to walk on her hands- during her six years in the orphanage.
- McFadden, who was adopted at 6-years-old- entered the Paralympics at the striking age of 8.
- After training for a variety of sports, McFadden settled on gymnastics, wheelchair basketball and track and field.
- In the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, she medaled twice and hasn’t slowed down since.
- She also achieved first place in both the Boston and the London marathons in 2013—both of which occurred in the period of one week.
- During that year, she also set a new course record for the Chicago Marathon (1 hour, 42 minutes, 35 seconds).
- This record setter also Became the first athlete to win six gold medals at a championships during the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon.
- She won gold in every event, ranging from 100-5,000 meters.
- “To finally win here gives me a great boost. I still have a lot to learn.” -Tatyana McFadden, the London Marathon women’s wheelchair champion.
Heather Mills- 49
- Some people spend their entire lives training to break sports records. Other people are Heather Mills.
- Few may know her as Paul McCartney’s ex wife, but many recognize her as a record breaking ski champ.
- This very recent competitor lost the lower half of her left leg in an accident in 1993.
- Mills decided to hit the slopes and turn into a pro skier, about five years ago.
- “Me becoming a skier was a complete accident. I’d skied as a holiday skier and someone said, ‘You should be a professional skier because you’re crazy and you only go straight.” -and that’s exactly what she did.
- After a few years of training, Mills became the world’s fasted disabled female skier.
- “I trained up and got on the British Paralympic team, won four gold medals and decided to be a speed skier[…] just for a complete change, and to disappear in the mountains.” -Heather Mills
- Mills currently has her eyes set on the 2018 Winter Paralympics.