OKC Paralympians overcome disabilities to go for gold

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Two weeks after the 2012 Olympic Games end in mid-August, the Paralympic Games begin for athletes with disabilities in London.

Two Oklahoma City residents will be competing in a rowing event that is a 1,000-meter sprint.

They've traveled so much farther to get to this point.

They said  the sport has given them a distinct sense of purpose and vision, even though for one of them, there is no sight.

Andrew Johnson and Emma Preuschl are training on the Oklahoma River Tuesday afternoon at the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center at the Devon Boathouse.

They have dreams of winning a gold medal.

Rowing has been a passion of these athletes since they were 14 years old.

You'd never know they had physical limitations.

Andrew, for example, knows being blind keeps him from doing other sports.

"Well, it's easier than race car driving," he said with a grin.

Emma has Erbs Palsy, partial paralysis of her left arm.

They're both Paralympians; but no different than Olympians in spirit.

"It's really a rush that I get from nothing else in my life," Andrew said.

"Being a part of the Paralympics allowed me to accept my physical body more than I had ever before," Emma said.

Mental barriers were broken for Andrew when he was 11 years old.

That's when Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind man to climb Mount Everest in 2001.

"My dad turns to me and he said, 'See, you can do anything,'" Andrew said.

So he started hiking and eventually got the opportunity to hike with Weihenmayer in Italy and Peru.

"It was the first time that I realized the only barriers to my success were the ones that I was putting up," he said.

Emma remembers trying to be a cheerleader but she couldn't make a "v" with her arms.

However, she was liberated from feeling deformed when she won a silver medal in rowing at the 2008 Paralympic Games.

"It was a defining moment in my life," she said. "It wasn't so much about the medal but it was about becoming more confident in myself."

The Paralympic Games will continue to transform their lives in London, beginning Aug. 29.

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