By Harry Sneider
Oscar Pistorius inspires the world with his courage. -Courtesy Photo
Oscar Pistorius is a brave disabled athlete that entered the world with a severe disease and had his legs amputated below his knees. Being a very athletic young boy his mother said to his older brother “Put on your shoes” and to Oscar she said, “Put on your legs” and go out and play. Oscar at that time wore prosthetic legs and did a number of sports activities. There was a deep yearning inside to become a world class athlete and years later he was fortunate enough to find a company that manufactured running blades that were attached to his knees. He won many Paralympics events and was yearning to run with able bodied athletes. After many years of discussions with Olympic officials he was finally allowed to run with the blades. He ran a personal best in the Olympic Games in the 400 meter semi finals in 45.4 seconds. What makes this story about Oscar so inspirational is that he found a way to compete in the Olympic Games to give athletes, war veterans, injury survivors and others courage to go for their dreams.
My story is somewhat similar to Oscar’s. I lost my ball and socket joint in Germany and have had a limp most of my life. Being a weightlifter I set a goal to be the strongest man in the United States under 200 lbs. I did powerlifting movements like the squat, 490 lbs on one good leg. I entered my first competition in 1964 and beat the able-bodied athletes. After the competition I was told that I had an advantage lifting only on one good leg as the other athletes lifted on two. Being banned from competition in Minnesota I stopped lifting weights for a number of years. Later I set world records in the bench press lifting 450 lbs at age 61.
Coming to California in 1967 I became a strength and conditioning coach to students, employees and athletes at Ambassador College. I realized that we were only using about 25-30% of our potential and it was quite easy for me to bring individuals up to their levels of achievements in sports and fitness. Oscar is telling us with his achievement as the blade runner that there is an unlimited capacity to win in sports competitions as well as life. The Bible clearly says that someone with a disability can call out to God and receive the help of His Holy Spirit.
In 1978 a Vietnam veteran by the name of Bob Wieland came to me and said, “Help me to realize more of my potential as an athlete.” Bob’s legs were blown off from the hips. He basically walked on his arms. Being a spiritual athlete he asked God to give him a vision to perform in such a way that it would inspire veterans, children, the disabled and others. He walked across America on his knuckles into President Reagan’s office and received a medal for his outstanding courage. Bob’s walk took 3 years, 8 months and 21 days.
Do you have a disability? 1. Ask God to help you. 2. Find something that you can do. 3. Reach out to others. 4. Be positive. 5. Set goals. 6. Exercise and eat right. 7. Thank God for your many blessings. Harry Sneider can be reached at 626-355-8964.