When people hear the word ‘athlete’ they automatically think; stamina, strength and speed.
But what many people don’t know is that with true dedication and the right mindset, true athletes may rise even from someone suffering from a disability.
Thirty-year-old Milo Toleafoa of Tuanaimato was named the Elite Athlete with Disability on Saturday during S.A.S.N.O.C’s Sports Award.
Held at the Gym 1 at Tuana’imato, Toleafoa is an athlete of the Samoa Paralympics who has Cerebral Palsy. He was among a host of athletes and sports administrators acknowledged on the night.
Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth.
It affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance.
Mr. Toleafoa competed in the men’s 400m T38 (cerebral palsy, with a comparatively low level of disability).
He is a T37 athlete, with somewhat greater level of disability but there was no specific T37 event in the 400 meters.
In heat 2, he finished fourth out of five in 1:09.97 almost fifteen seconds behind the top three athletes, but more than four seconds ahead of Timor – Leste’s Filomeno Soares.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer he said he is thankful to the Samoa Paralympics Committee for nominating him to receive the award.
“I am really happy to receive this award and this is something that I will remember for the rest of my life,” he said. “I was nervous because there were a lot of people that were there, and when they called my name I stood up slowly and as I made my way up on the stage I felt butterflies because I finally look down and saw many people there.
“I was overwhelmed because I was happy to be noticed by people especially here in Samoa so it was a night to remember for the rest of my life.” General Secretary of the Samoa Paralympics Committee, Julie Tuala, said that Mr. Toleafoa deserves the award.
“He is a good person in terms of his personality, he is well disciplined, he doesn’t drink and he doesn’t go out,” she said. “He is an elite athlete in Paralympics and he had worked hard to get here.”
Asked about the challenges, Ms. Tuala said it’s trying to adapt to the level of the physical disability.
“The most amazing thing about these athletes is that they can struggle to walk but the minute they take off it‘s like an able person is running,” she said.
“The struggle is always in terms of adapting to them and the coach should have as much understanding in how to deal with them because the trainings of able bodies is slightly different from the athlete with a physical disability.
“[And] with Milo there are certain standards that should be maintained to better aware the coach in terms of his endurance because he is paralysed on his right side he is not fully strong to the extent that for example do a lot of weights. Milo cannot fully coordinate on the bike so then his trainings cater specially in terms of physically running.”
“So he does a lot of strength training and uses the weight of his body to help him with the training.” Milo is the youngest son of Suega and Toleafoa Taitimu Toleafoa. He started in the Samoa Paralympics Committee in 2007 when he participated in Arafua Games and Oceania Games in 2007 in the 400 meters.