Written by Roberta Lane Friday, 17 December 2010 00:00
Amy Palmeiro-Winters is a runner; she will not stand still for anything. Eagerly making a mark in the sport, it seemed that her running career would be cut short when, at 21, a motorcycle accident claimed half of her left leg.
In spite of expert opinion, she began running again after 27 surgeries over a three-year span. The surgery attempts ended with the decision to amputate from just below the knee. She has since experienced tremendous success. The sheer fact that Palmeiro-Winters kept motivated through so much adversity is something few can do.
She returned to running, but ultimately with a prosthetic leg, setting new world records for her running class, and competed successfully in myriad races, including ultra marathons (50k, 50-mile, 100k, 100 mile and 24 hour races), triathlons including the Ironman, half-Ironman, and Olympic distance races. She says that putting her prosthetic in place every day is like putting on a pair of eyeglasses.
Palmeiro-Winters recently added an ESPN ESPY award for the best female athlete with a disability to her many accomplishments, yet with all she has accomplished she is most proud of being a mother. She teaches her children the same message she shares with all children: be the best you can be, have courage, never give up and never quit.
In her thirties, this Hicksville resident, mother of two, has run her way to center stage as an ESPY winner and shows no signs of stopping. Palmeiro-Winters knows a second chance is hard to come by, and is grateful for hers.
Today she shares her message with other amputees looking for their second chance in life. This professional athlete strives to inspire children and adults, including cancer survivors.
Palmeiro-Winters started running as a child and competed in her first race when she was only 8 years old. She quickly discovered the feeling of being part of something bigger, part of a team committed to giving your all to something. While running track in high school, her dad not only encouraged her athletic endeavors, he taught her to finish what you start.
Palmeiro-Winters espouses a simple goal: always try your best, believe in yourself, and know what makes you truly happy. She insists that, by nurturing this ambition, we enhance our lives. Her ambition has always been to succeed in sports. After her leg was amputated, Palmeiro-Winters knew she had two choices, give up or move on. Her “move on” attitude is what drives her success.
Palmeiro-Winters constant message is that we all face challenges and obstacles; our conscious decision of how we handle those challenges is what makes all the difference.
She attributes her success to the power sports has played in her life. Working with Aspire, a New York based nonprofit organization, she “helps children and young adults with limb loss get back to an active healthy lifestyle, through sports, teamwork and education.”
She glows while talking about the children she works with; in particular, a boy she had connected with in Brooklyn. He stayed apart from other children in the group, almost constantly staring at the end of his amputation, consumed by belief children and adults don’t look him in the eye because they stare at his missing limb. When Palmeiro-Winters began involving him in sports he was able to free himself from being self-conscious; being part of something bigger, an active participant in a sport, gave him a sense of courage and pride.
Confidence is the byproduct of Palmeiro-Winters running that she shares and instills in children, other athletes and other amputees.
Running allowed her to get through the difficult times, helped teach her to set goals, and to always learn from her experiences. She says that she has never accepted defeat and still believes that achieving anything is possible. You just need to believe.