Paralympic athlete speaks about overcoming hurdles

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    Aimee Mullins, a model, athlete, writer, and actress, told women and men of TCU Monday night to remember to pursue their goals, no matter how lofty or crazy.

    “I would never have characterized myself, per se, as an athlete,” she said from atop her stiletto heels. Her crisp black pants suit hid two prostheses. Mullins, who was born without one of the two bones in both her lower legs, is a double below-the-knee amputee.

    Mullins spoke in honor of the TCU Women’s Resource Center’s tenth anniversary. A women’s community dinner was held at the Kelly Alumni Center, and a Middle-Eastern dinner was served to about 100 people before Mullins addressed the audience.

    Mullins described the way she grew up with sports, and at the prompting of a friend she entered a 100-meter track race for disabled athletes while in college. With her ordinary prostheses, she had little chance of winning against people with “funky NASA space-age legs.”

    She did win, though, and totally committed herself to running until she qualified for the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta. By this time she had a pair of “cheetah leg” prostheses based on the hind leg of the world’s fastest land animal.

    Her competition proved tougher, though. Although all of the international competitors she was pitted against were amputees, they were missing only a hand or an arm. Even with revolutionary technology, she was still missing two limbs.

    “I lost the biggest race of my life,” Mullins said. “I had changed my whole life for this … and I felt so robbed.”

    After a period of anxiety and depression, she finally realized “the quest for the Holy Grail is not in the cup but in the journey.”

    Mullins noted that too many people “take what’s happened before and they think it’s law.” Short-sightedness and a lack of drive will disable anyone, she said.

    Chancellor Victor Boschini said in a brief speech that the event was important because it addressed “issues vital to, but not exclusive to, women.”

    Leann Cathcart, a sophomore pre-major, is a member of the TCU swim team, and she said she was very inspired by Mullins’ speech. “Women need to keep in mind that the world is limitless and they can do anything they set their mind to,” she said.

    Marcy Paul, the director of the TCU Women’s Resource Center, said Mullins did exactly what she came to do — inspire everyone present.