SPORTS, FITNESS & DANCE

Fighting Cerebral Palsy in the Ring

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Brianna Salinaro

Disability

I was born six weeks premature and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of one and a half. Around the time most babies begin to walk I was still crawling and was not able to keep shoes on my feet because my feet were pointed downward. My parents took me to multiple doctors only to be frustrated by their answer of it was a phase and I needed time to grow out of it. Knowing that something was serioulsy wrong my parents didn't stop until I was given a legitimate diagnosis. After discovering that I have a spastic displegia (1 form of Cerebral Palsy) we also discovered that doctors thought I would never gain the ability to walk. In an attempt to increase my chances of walking I had my heel cords lengthened. The surgery was a success but it took a lot more than surgery to get me up on my feet. I lived in casts up to my thighs for about six weeks, followed by leg braces both day and night for a year, and at the age of three I started wearing my braces strictly at night. Along with casting and bracing I have participated in speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy throughout my life. Today at the age of nineteen I continue to participate in physical therapy and wear leg braces at night.

Taekwondo Journey

Throughout my early childhood I never thought of myself differently than everyone else. As I grew up I quickly discovered that my lifestyle was extremely different than everyone elses. I encountered a lot of bullying from elementary school all the way through high school because of the way I walked, ran, and performed daily activities. As a result of the bullying I had very low self-esteem and didn't think much of myself. I participated in many sports as a kid despite the physical challenges I faced and still continue to face today. I always had an interest in martial arts and decided to comitt to that interest when I joined taekwondo at the age of ten years old. Because of my confidence issues I never fully comitted to the support until I was about fourteen years old. Once I fully comitted to sport I decided that my disability would no longer stand in the way of doing something I love. After earning my first black belt degree I discovered the sport aspect of Taekwondo and fell in love with it. After many years of constant training I can now say I'm the first female to represent the United States of America in the sport of para Taekwondo. I'm currently ranked number two in the world in the K42 -58kg sparring division as well as number thirteen world in the K44 -58kg sparring division. I'm also a second degree black belt and ranked number one in the nation in both the K44 -58kg and K42 -58kg sparring divisions. My ultimate goal is to represent the United States at the first ever Taekwondo Paralympics during 2020 in Japan.

Blessings of Taekwondo

Taekwondo has blessed me with so many different oppurtunites and has taught me so many valuable life lessons. After fully comitting myself to the sport I discovered what its like to be apart of a team and to be supported by others. I've learned the value of hardwork and what it means to push yourself past your limits. I've also learned that you are capable of more than you think you are. Along with all the mental benefits Taekwondo I have also benefited physically. My balance has improved significantlly along with my flexibility and agility. When I was younger I always wondered why I had this disability and always looked at it negatively, but Taekwondo has given me the answer to my question and has given me a positive outlook. Best of all Taekwondo has blessed me with the oppurtunity to represent the United States internationally as well as make history for the country. I'm essentially a pioneer in the sport of Para Taekwondo being that it is a new Paralympic sport and I could not be more thankful for that.

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