As ‘Stay-Focused’, a not-for-profit organization helping teens with disabilities, makes it way around Cayman, guest speaker and Paralympic gold medalist Gail Gaeng is aiming to change the conversation around Paralympic sports.
“A few years ago you’d only get a few hands that say yea I’ve seen Paralympic wheelchair basketball or the Paralympic games and now in the crowd you can see 10-15 students which that just shows you that the awareness and the movement it’s working.”
Gaeng, 25, won gold as a member of the United States women’s basketball team at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Gaeng is an ambassador for Stay Focused and spoke to Cayman Prep High School Thursday morning. Principal Phillip Burgess says Gaeng’s message resonates with all teenagers.
“Tenacity, and it’s what we try to get through to the students all the time. You’ve got to keep trying. Small setbacks don’t mean too much as long as you get back up and keep trying and her message was fantastic about that today.”
In wheelchair basketball, Gaeng has no shortage of tenacious moments. One student asks “have you ever fallen on the side of the wheelchair?”
“You definitely tip over and that’s kind of why its good to be strapped in because if you fall over and fall right to the ground you can jump hop right back up or have my teammate help me.”
As students hurried back to class, Gaeng had certainly gained a few more fans.
“It was pretty cool to see that people with disabilities can go all the way to the Olympics” said one student.
“She’s an Olympic winner and she came back to the gold medal” said another.
“Paralympics are just as exciting as the regular Olympics and she didn’t give up” said a third.
That change in perception is exactly what Gaeng hopes to accomplish.
“It makes me feel amazing a way that I’ve touched them in a way or helped them realized something about themselves in my conversations with them.”