Photo Courtesy: Marc and Donna Wright - That is the power of the Paralympics. It makes it all, whatever it is, even something as definitively American as football, a sport that isn't even part of the Paralympic scene so much more "normal."
The thing about Steven Contreras being back on the football field, which of course is extraordinary, is that it's really not.
Eight months to the day after doctors amputated the lower part of his left leg, Steven, who is a 16-year-old high school junior, got back in for about a dozen plays in the game that clinched the league championship. Last week, even though that knee was sore, he played again as his school, Rolling Hills Prep, moved to 8-1.
Five or six or 10 years from now, when Steven is bigger and stronger, maybe he competes for the United States in the Paralympic Games. Or maybe not.
It doesn't matter.
What matters is that the change the Paralympic movement has wrought. That change has come incrementally and surely has yet to be fully realized -- there being some 21 million people in the United States with a physical disability.
The years have nevertheless ushered in that change. And it is powerful and undeniable. It is emphatic and it is real. It does nothing less than give young people like Steven hope.
"That," he said of the Paralympics, "is something I would definitely love to do."
Yes, Steven has lost part of a leg. No, he won't ever again be the same. But he can -- he will -- still be "normal," able to live his life to the fullest, just like the able-bodied kids around him -- who, and this is a key part of the change, too, treat him "normally."
That is the power of the Paralympics. It makes it all -- whatever it is, even something as definitively American as football, a sport that isn't even part of the Paralympic scene -- so much more "normal."
"It has been really inspiring," sophomore Kevin Kole, Rolling Hills Prep's punter and place-kicker, said of Steven's determination to get back into uniform, a testament to Steven's own mental fortitude, Steven's faith and the love and support of his parents, coaches, teammates and others.
The way that inspiration manifested itself, and the way Kevin describes it, is the telling part: "He was always trying, always at practice every day. But his leg wasn't ready," by which Kevin meant both Steven's left leg and one or another of the prostheses Steven would be trying.
"He kept getting new legs," Kevin said. "They kept breaking because he kept jumping and running. This one now, it works -- but we had to wrap it in all this foam."
Just a matter-of-fact recitation about how to solve what is, well, an equipment issue.
Because once that was solved, of course Steven would be playing -- right?
Rolling Hills Prep is an independent co-educational secular school for grades six through 12 in San Pedro,