Paralympic Athletes Compete At UCO This Weekend

Friday, June 10th 2011, 8:20 pm
By: News 9

Jacqueline Sit, News 9

EDMOND, Oklahoma -- More than 400 athletes are expected to compete in this year's Endeavor Games for athletes with physical disabilities at the University of Central Oklahoma this weekend. The athletes are seeing more completion this year because it is the year before the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. They are using this event to qualify in their sport.

"I love it, do it every day," says T.J. Pemberton. He has competed in archery for years across the country and overseas including 2008's Beijing Paralympics. Nothing has stopped this athlete after suffering from a serious accident.

"I had a four-wheeler accident and was confined to a wheelchair. I had to learn to reshoot all over again," he says.

Pemberton is one of hundreds of athletes in the Endeavor Games where athletes of all ages with a range of physical disabilities compete.

"Everyone from the U.S. archery team, which I'm on, all the way down to someone who borrowed someone's bow to try to shoot," Pemberton says.

From outdoor sports to indoors, wheelchair basketball is just as competitive.

Inside the table tennis tournament is where we met one of the youngest first-time athletes.

"This is a really amazing experience," says 13-year-old Dustin Strelsky.

"I was in the hospital for four months and so I got hurt really bad," he says. A drunk driver crashed into the teenager and his family in a head on collision accident last year. Doctors then said he wasn't going to make it. But Strelsky is proof miracles can happen.

"I just feel honored to be here and to play and meet new people."

Both Pemberton and Strelsky haven't let an accident stop them from the love of sports as they continue reaching for the dream of the Paralympics.

Pemberton says, "It gives the person with a disability the opportunity to reach out and try something new and get a little bit of normalcy to their lives."

The games at UCO will also have more than 85 military members from the U-S Paralympic Military Program.