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The Antelope

Paralympian inspires students to compete

KOSUKE YOSHII / ANTELOPE STAFF Jean Driscoll set a Boston Marathon world record and won 12 medals as a Paralympian.

Hall of Fame Paralympian, Jean Driscoll, presented “Dream Big, Work Hard” at the Health and Sports Center. She shared her unique perspective as a world record breaking athlete born with spina bifida. 

UNK football player, Gabriel Amegatcher, said Driscoll’s remarkable story had an impact on him. 

“I think it’s just great to see another athlete’s perspective, especially one with a disability,” Amegatcher said. “She’s been through a million times worse than anything I could have been through honestly.”

Driscoll has lived an extraordinary life. 

She grew up in Wisconsin with four other siblings, and she was never one to let her disability define her. Her strong, competitive spirit caused her siblings to treat her as an equal. She would not let falling down keep her from aiming high. 

Unfortunately, her body didn’t always keep up with her ambitions. 

After she dislocated her hip she endured five operations in one year. She spent a year in a body cast on a hospital bed in her living room that her family paid for by selling a piano. After exhausting all options her doctor realized that Driscoll would be reliant on a wheelchair for the rest of her life. 

Nonetheless, Driscoll was an athlete and her competitive nature could not be diminished by a wheelchair. She followed her sister to a public school where she started playing wheelchair soccer, football and hockey. Wheelchair basketball earned her a scholarship to college. Even though the offer came from the University of Illinois, a school Driscoll said she had a huge rivalry with as a Cheesehead, she could not be more grateful for her experiences at Illinois and her coach Marty Morse who pushed her to compete in events when she wasn’t confident in her own abilities. 

After many years of Marty Morse’s request, Driscoll competed in the Chicago marathon  where she ended up qualifying for the Boston marathon. Coach Morse convinced her to compete  again and she broke the world record at the Boston Marathon by almost seven minutes. Driscoll went on to win the next six Boston Marathons, setting new records in the process. 

She took her talents to the international level, winning 12 medals for the U.S. Paralympics. Five were gold medals that solidified an accomplished career as a Hall of Fame athlete for her record breaking performances. Despite the circumstances, her determination always led to success. 

“Our biggest limitations are the ones that we place on ourselves,” Driscoll said. Jean Driscoll continues to inspire after her retirement. Her philanthropy helped to raise the funds and train the first ever Ghana Paralympic team. She continues to influence others and instill the drive in people just like her.  

“We have an opportunity to impact other people’s lives in the smallest of ways,” Driscoll said. 

Driscoll continues to be a positive influence in the lives of disabled athletes. 

UNK basketball player, Brooke Carlson, reflected on the impact Driscoll has had on other people through her philanthropy after retirement. 

“There’s someone that has it tougher and just being able to realize that and just having  that mission of picking people up whether it’s physically and giving them a wheelchair or spiritually and mentally she’s always uplifting,” Carlson said.

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