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Hundreds of participants converged from all over the country for the Junior National Championships in Connecticut.
Like Beth, many teenagers lived in places where they were the only ones with a visible disability in their class or school.
At registration, we recognized a few teenagers from the Paralympic meet in Minneapolis two weeks before, and another from the Ohio Wheelchair Games. None of Beth’s friends from the Raptors had been able to join us.
The first day, we found the large field house with many ping-pong tables set up and ready to go. Beth experimented and found a better way to use the tenodesis grip to angle the paddle by tilting her left wrist more. She decided to test how far she could lean to reach the ball without tumbling down, so at her request, I reluctantly removed the two armrests on her wheelchair.
Beth surprised both of us by winning several games without falling to the floor.
The armrests never went back on her chair. After the table tennis competition, caterers served a simple meal for the athletes and parents in attendance. Young servers stood behind the buffet table and wore clear plastic gloves to set out food. As we ate, a frustrated mom confronted the workers about the latex gloves they wore. Her son had a latex allergy, more common among kids with disabilities than the general population. (Thankfully, Beth never had a problem with latex.) I agreed with the mom about the need to use latex-free gloves at a disability event. Though I also felt sorry for the teenaged servers who were not personally responsible.
At the swim competition, wheelchairs surrounded the pool.
When Beth raced, I walked alongside on the deck. In her sights, I pretended to be a coach by waving my arms, the signal to kick harder. She set several new wheelchair sports records for her gender, classification, and age group.
Not the coveted Paralympic American Records.
Next destination of a non-stop summer: Mystic, Connecticut!
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