Going for Gold in spite of Lyme
"The honor to represent your country at that level, it's incredible. I didn't think I was going to have the opportunity."
Lack of confidence in her athletic ability was not the reason for Clarke's doubt. Rather, it was a tick bite that had resulted in Lyme disease.
In 2003, Clarke was paralyzed and partially blinded by Lyme disease. She was told she'd never shoot the bow again. Since age 11, she has used a wheelchair due to arthritis. A fearless competitor, she rejected the notion of giving up her dream of gold. Instead she worked hard to heal from Lyme's brutal symptoms and recover movement, sight and agility. Three and a half years ago she began training for the 2008 Paralympic Games.
The Summer Paralympics began in Rome in 1960, for athletes with physical, mental or sensory disabilities. They are held in the same host city as the Olympic Games, and run by the same organization. They begin three weeks after the Olympics closing ceremony. "Para" is from a Greek word for "alongside," and is not related to "paralyzed."
Mel Clarke currently holds 20 county records, 10 national able-bodied records and eight world records. In addition to going for the gold in Bejing over the next few weeks, she is also eagerly anticipating competing in her home turf in the London Olympic Games in 2012.