CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Shenendehowa track and field star Emily Lopez found success on the international level this winter, all while showing the only disability in life is a bad attitude. She was born without a right hand or elbow.
“I never really saw it as a limitation,” said Lopez. “Just something, a reason for motivating me even more.”
From a young age she never let her disability get in the way of her passion for sports. “I’m a very athletic person,” said Lopez. “Growing up I did gymnastics, I did soccer, I did taekwondo, I did a lot of sports. I guess my parents growing up have definitely had a big impact on my positive mentality. They’ve never limited me to anything. They let me try whatever I want to do and basically they just have the mindset that my mind is the only limitation.”
At the urging of a 9th grade gym coach and a father who used to run cross country, Emily joined the Shen track and field team. Now a senior, Emily hasn’t just made an impact with her running, but also her leadership. “Watching her come here everyday and showing that she does not have a limitation, she knows she’s going to come in here and do the best she can with every workout, every activity that we’re doing, I think it really sets the tone for the rest of the team,” said assistant coach Rachel Venditti.
This past December, a new opportunity presented itself. Emily traveled to Portugal to represent team USA in the International Wheelchair and Amputee World Games; her first international competition at just 17 years old. Competing against athletes with similar limitations, Emily took home the Gold in the 100, 200, and 400 meters. In the open division long jump – she took home the silver. “Portugal was definitely a way of dipping my toes in the water and seeing what I can do as I get older,” said Lopez. “I’m not even out of high school yet and I got to go to an international competition and have so much success so it was nice to see what I can do out there and what the future might be for me.”
Now Emily sets her sights on even bigger goals, aiming to compete in the Paralympics in Paris in 2024, all while providing inspiration to athletes everywhere competing with disabilities. “Don’t look at your disability as a limitation. Just because you’re different than someone doesn’t mean you’re worse or anything like that. Don’t let it set limits to you. The only thing that defines your limits are how hard you work and the effort you put in.”