Paralympian Gold Medalist Megan Blunk Reveals One Thing That Can Help Young Athletes Most

As someone who was always a competitive athlete, Paralympian gold medalist Megan Blunk said she was at her lowest point when she was paralyzed as a teenager.

Blunk, who plays for Team USA’s women’s wheelchair basketball, told Showbiz Cheat Sheet she was always very active in sports. “Sports have been a huge part of my life,” Blunk shared. She started playing soccer in kindergarten, then started basketball and baseball while she was in elementary school. But a motorcycle accident changed her life forever.

Megan Blunk and Ava Cantrell
Megan Blunk and Ava Cantrell |Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images for Angel City Sports

Blunk was paralyzed from the waist down after she was riding as a passenger on a motorcycle. The driver lost control and slid off the road. This caused Blunk to break 18 bones in her body and become permanently paralyzed.

She found herself in a dark place

Although she was athletic prior to the accident, Blunk says she wasn’t actually aware that she could continue her dreams of becoming a professional athlete after being paralyzed. “No one knew about wheelchair basketball,” she recalls. “To them, it was a sad story, the saddest story. A tragedy of someone who was really active and now couldn’t do anything.”

The accident left her feeling helpless and hopeless. “When I had [the ability to walk] taken away and everyone in society was looking at me with pity, that was hard to overcome,” she recalls. “I knew deep down I am more than my wheelchair and I am not disabled. But those looks kept me feeling like I couldn’t.”

It took about a year for Blunk to learn about adaptive sports, which gave her hope. Having the insight she could once again be an athlete gave Blunk the motivation to move forward with her life.

Blunk learned about wheelchair basketball

Through her local YMCA, she found out about wheelchair basketball. “I saw it as my second chance to be an athlete again,” Blunk says. “And overcome the regrets I had for not pushing myself harder when I had the opportunity.”

Megan Blunk and Olivia Curcuru |Photo courtesy of The Hartford. Photographer credit Joe Kusumoto

But she was in an everyday wheelchair at the time. Plus she didn’t have access or information about what athletic opportunities were available to her. “I wanted more, I wanted to be an athlete again and it was really frustrating,” she recalls. “You can’t play in an everyday wheelchair and everyone is way faster, but no one explained it to me.”

It took a visit from a volunteer who loaned her a basketball wheelchair to light a fire inside of Blunk. While using the chair helped, she knew she needed one that was custom fit. She attended adaptive sports camps and clinics that helped her realize a piece of equipment could help her reach heights beyond her wildest dreams.

Blunk ultimately earned a full ride scholarship to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois, becoming the first person in her family to attend college. Today she is a member of Team USA and won the gold at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

The right equipment can change an athlete’s life

Blunk says once she had the right basketball wheelchair she felt the freedom and joy she hadn’t experienced since her accident. She recalls the highs of feeling so free, but the lows of returning to regular life when she would leave one of the adaptive camps. “I already had a taste of it, but it was frustrating because I had to go cross country to get it,” she recalls. “It’s expensive. If I were to get a basketball wheelchair that fit me, it would cost between $3,000 to $7,000.”

Megan Blunk presents a new wheelchair |Photo courtesy of The Hartford. Photographer credit Joe Kusumoto

Because Blunk knows the importance of a good chair, she’s partnered with insurance company, The Hartford. The Hartford announced a new program in November of last year that provides adaptive sports equipment through grants to adaptive sports clubs across the country.

Recently Blunk attended the Angel City Games presented by The Hartford. She surprised three young athletes with new adaptive sport wheelchairs as part of the company‚Äôs Ability Equipped program. Blunk says she’s excited to be part of the initiative because she wants more young athletes to know they are much more than their wheelchair.