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Learning How to Fly
My legs quivered like leaves preparing themselves for the leap off of their familiar tree, and my heart beat to the rhythm of the runners’ feet in front of me. This was my chance. The chance I had fantasized about.
The first time I participated in the Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged, I had just turned five. Prior to that, I had hamstring and heel-cord lengthening on both of my legs. For six weeks, I was in casts that came up to my knees and resembled snow boots. A few weeks before, I had my “snow boots” removed. My mom had entered me in a few events, but she was unsure if I was capable of doing them.
That day, it was blistering hot, like a desert that was occupied with hundreds of people. I was in my blue-plaid stroller, so I couldn’t get bombarded by the parade of electric and manual wheelchairs. I was the “baby” of the team, and nobody was certain of my ability. My tactic was to try my best.
I heard a piercing gun-shot, cuing the beginning of a C5, (my category in the Games), race. I watched intensively as Briana, my teammate who was ten at the time, ran a 400-meter on the overcrowded track. Briana used two navy-blue crutches that glistened in the reflective light of the sun, while I normally used my bulky, silver walker with dozens of Ferbies swaying from the bars. The air smelled subtly of a festive mixture of pollen and vibrantly colored blossoms, which were just forming on the late-May trees.
She flew right before my 5-year-old, amazed eyes as I sat eagerly on the bleachers. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and learn how to fly just as swiftly as she could. I turned to my mom and exclaimed, “I want to run tomorrow, like Briana!”
She looked at me in awe, and sounded quizzical when she questioned, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah!” I replied, full of enthusiasm and 100% optimism. As I saw Briana cross the coveted finishing line, I knew indeed that was what I really wanted.
The next day, I fiddled around, waiting for my C5 60-meter race to be announced in the colossal cluster of wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches.
Corey my teammate encouraged me with a sincere, “Good luck,” as I approached the starting line.
By the time everyone was settled into their designated positions, my legs felt like melted Jell-O.
Once I heard the rambunctious gun-shot, I ran as fast as I was capable of. My legs gave out after only about five of my miniature strides. Instead of resting (like my dad insisted from the inner-field), I struggled to regain my power. My knees were scraped and slightly sore, but every time I considered quitting, I would lament about yesterday’s race that Briana ran, and dismissively level out that option.
When my exhausted feet finally reached the finish line, I’d fallen approximately three times. It was exhilarating to hear the teammates I looked up to cheer, “Go, Erica!”
That year, I’d won three bronze medals, two silver medals, and an array of various ribbons anywhere from 4-7place and ones that said “Personal Best.” Although I hadn’t received any gold medals, I realized the purpose of ESG. The Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged are for people to do the best of their ability, and meet people with all different abilities.