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Original Issue


Five accomplished athletes, disabled while performing their sports, faced their most difficult challenge and succeeded, against enormous odds, in building new lives

It was everything you dream about as a youngster when you set your sights on playing college ball. We were playing against Alabama, the Number 3 team in the country, we were playing against Bear Bryant, and didn't all of us go out on the field looking for him? There were 63,000 people in the stands on a perfect fall day." As his wife and child play nearby, The Halfback rests his hands, loosely curled into fists, on the rails of his wheelchair. "God," he says, "it was everything you wanted out of football."

Did you ever see secretariat, a shimmer of speed and syncopation, charging out of the backstretch? What would you give to command that kind of locomotion? The ability to walk on your own feet for the rest of your life? The Jockey is weary of such riddles. He got a better deal than most riders. "Jockeys have died," he says. Anyway, to this day he gets a free copy of the Daily Racing Form in the mail. Some poor jockey who won only 10 races, he says, wouldn't rate that remembrance. "I'm a lucky man."

He is innocent of the irony involved when he putters along Gasoline Alley in his wheelchair, his own little car. He returns to the Indy 500 as often as he is able, but the sight of him there is neither morbid nor cautionary. Anybody can hit a slick spot, anybody can crash. The Driver is there for the same reason he was 21 years ago, when he backed into the Turn 1 wall. He likes the race, the action, the noise. The hurly-burly around him gives him an idea: "Maybe I could drive the pace car in the parade lap."

Hers was a fierce determination. When she realized she probably could not make the U.S. track team for the 1980 Olympics, she switched to cycling, and by '82 she was a contender for the '84 Olympic team. Even after the pileup left her with severe brain damage, unable to walk or talk, shaken with horrible seizures, The Cyclist did not consider ordinary goals. She practiced brushing her teeth; it was maddening how much she had to recover. And the Olympics were only two years away!

How disheartening it was to see Marvelous Marvin Hagler, so vivid before, get blurry at the edges and nearly disappear into darkness. Why, even the journeymen The Boxer was forced to fight in the heartland, while he worked his way back to Hagler, were becoming vague shapes, complicated shadows in front of him. But the hardship of the fights—locating opponents by the rustle of their satin trunks or the whistle of their punches—was nothing compared to the dimming, day by day, of his dreams of glory.

What happens when the people who best control their bodies lose substantial use of them? When the athletes who possess the most speed are denied even motion? Life instructs us against arrogance, and even the privileged occasionally learn this harsh lesson. Here are five athletes who lived with the confidence that they did something better and faster and more powerfully than almost anybody else in the world. Then they were not merely leveled by catastrophe, not simply returned to the normal population, but so reduced in physical capacity that they could never even be ordinary. You see: Count on nothing. To make the instruction doubly dramatic, all five were crippled by their own trusted and practiced sports. So what happened? What sorts of lives have these athletes built? In fact, what sorts of lives did they have before?

Probably he would have become a banker, like his father and grandfather. He was a business major at Texas Christian and had, he admits, a fixed and pleasant view of his future. "It would have been a great life," he says, "but, then, nowhere near the life that I have today."

Kent Waldrep, 35, sits behind a huge desk in a swank office suite in Dallas. He is starched, pinstriped and suspendered, looking for all the world like a corporate executive. Well, he is a corporate executive. He's president of the National Paralysis Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money for research to find a cure for spinal-cord injuries. Right now he is involved in a campaign to raise $5 million to establish a neuroscience research unit at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Launched in July, the campaign already has $1.5 million in pledges.

In the 10 years since he founded the American Paralysis Association (APA), which he left in 1985 to start the National Paralysis Foundation, Waldrep has raised close to $7 million for spinal-cord research. This life is more intense and more public than the one he had originally imagined for himself. In 1982, Waldrep was appointed to a presidential commission that is helping to draft a bill of rights for the disabled. In 1985 he was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of America by the U.S. Jaycees. He has been featured in newsmagazines and on network morning TV shows.

"I've experienced many more realities, had my eyes opened to many more problems and issues, even national in scope, than I would have," Waldrep says. Perhaps because he can move only his head, neck and arms, he uses his arms more theatrically than most people. Here he stretches them wide. "There's no doubt the injury has made me a better person."

The injury: Waldrep was a starting halfback for TCU in 1974 when, in a game against third-ranked Alabama, he sprinted wide on a sweep. Hit in the legs from behind, he flipped over backward onto his head. "I had my bell rung" is what he thought. In fact, he had broken his neck, and today, looking back, he thinks he should have realized it. "It's so vivid to me now, the feeling of nothingness."

Determined to leave his wheelchair, Waldrep did more than his rehabilitation therapists encouraged. In 1974 the idea of rehab for paraplegics and quadriplegics was to prepare them for a lifetime in the chair. Waldrep wanted a program that would enable him to play golf by 1980. So he developed his own treatments, simple things like electro-massage to keep his leg muscles from atrophying, more sensational things like a trip to the Soviet Union in 1978 for enzyme injections, which increased movement in his arms, returned feeling to his chest and restored full bladder control.

The trip turned him into something of a celebrity and caused two other things to happen. The first is that he became a clearinghouse for information for other paralyzed people, who were more excited by the news of his trip than the medical establishment was. As a result, he founded the APA, which has grown into a nationwide organization with a yearly budget of $1.75 million. The second thing that happened was that Waldrep met and married Lynn Burgland, a Dallas TV producer who had been assigned to do a story on him. The normality and certainty of the life he had once envisioned were out of the question, but Burgland and the happiness he found with her, he discovered, were nice compensations.

Not everybody is as lucky as Waldrep. With his first foundation, which he left because of internal political disputes, and his current one, Waldrep has fought to restore opportunity and hope to less fortunate victims of paralysis. "It's easy for me to concentrate on the positive because of all that you see here," he says in his office. "But how many 18-year-olds are lying in an institution, wards of the state? Their lives are lost. No matter what their talents, they have no opportunity to contribute, no chance to participate."

It's one thing to work on legislation to provide increased access for the handicapped—which must be done, Waldrep says, because the disabled remain the only segment of the population against which it is still legal to discriminate. But to Waldrep, that is short-term thinking. "The goal," he says, "has to be to get out of these wheelchairs."

Waldrep is so dapper, so apparently in control, that his paralysis is often overlooked in business situations. But he can never accept it. "For all I've accomplished, I can be in the middle of a meeting and my external catheter leaks, and all of a sudden I've wet my pants. After all this! The quality of life you lead can never be as good in a wheelchair as out."

He still intends to play golf. Waldrep believes that research will someday develop a treatment that will enable the wheelchair-bound to kick up their heels. Why, look what has been done already.

Several years ago Waldrep learned about a method to electrically stimulate ejaculation in some paralyzed men. So it was that Waldrep, who is unable to dress himself, fathered a son, Trey, who will be two years old on Christmas Eve.

You might think a man who cannot tightly grip a spoon or comb his hair or cross his legs would reflect on what he has lost. A piece of paper slips off a desk and flutters to the floor; to Waldrep, that paper no longer exists. You might think the loss of ordinary abilities would be especially profound to an athlete whose physical control had once helped attract 63,000 people to a football game. Maybe in the dark hours Waldrep thinks of this. But just now, fumbling with a picture of Trey, it occurs to him that he has more than he needs.

"So, I've got a son to raise, and he does take an interest in his daddy, he does enjoy being with his daddy," he says. The young executive can hardly bear to think about this shocking abundance of life. "It's just that...he was never supposed...."

Waldrep looks away, would turn away if he could.

If you can find Drummond, New Brunswick, which is not easy, then you can find Ron Turcotte. "Just ask somebody in town," he says over the phone. In Drummond (pop. 863), right across the border from Maine, the lady in the hardware store nods her head. Shifting from French to English, she says, "Big stone house." Folks can be a little hard to pin down in these parts. But, in fact, there is no other house so big as Turcotte's.

You would certainly know the house was his if you peeked inside; the walls of the hallways and the den are lined with photos of Turcotte sitting on horses in winner's circles. Turcotte had more than 3,000 winners in his 17-year career, and a good many of them are pictured in his house. It's not a museum, though. As he sails up and down the wide halls in his wheelchair on this particular day, Turcotte seems to regard the display more as a set of economic indicators. "See that?" he'll ask, pointing to a photo. "That was a $40,000 race. It's a million-dollar race today."

Only Secretariat, his Triple Crown winner in 1973, escapes Turcotte's inflation index. Stopping before the colt's photo, blown up extra large, he simply says, "The big horse."

Turcotte will forever be associated with Secretariat, but it was Flag of Leyte Gulf that changed his life. In 1978 in a race at Belmont Park, the 5-year-old filly was knocked off balance when Small Raja, ridden by Jeff Fell, drifted to the outside, crowding another horse and making Flag tumble when she clipped both horses' heels. Turcotte was flung over Flag's head and landed first on his head and then on his back. As soon as he hit the track he knew he was in trouble. When the outrider reached him, Turcotte said, "Don't touch me, there's something wrong." Indeed, Turcotte's back was broken, and he was paralyzed from the chest down.

Today he harbors no bitterness against Fell. "He might have been careless in his ride," Turcotte says, "but I've been careless in rides, too, and caused spills. It was an accident, just that." The $105-million lawsuit Turcotte filed in 1979 against the New York Racing Association, which was eventually dismissed, is not evidence of bitterness either, he says. Turcotte never expected much of the suit, and after he filed it he still went to the track every day.

"We've never even talked about the accident," Turcotte says. He hollers over to his wife, Gaetane, who is reading the newspaper in the kitchen. "Have we ever talked about the accident?"

"No," she says, "I guess there's plenty else to talk about."

In the same way that he doesn't look back, Turcotte never looks ahead. His getting into horse racing was as unpremeditated as his getting out. In 1960, while he was living in a Toronto boarding-house and waiting for a carpenters' strike to end so he could get work as a roofer, he saw his first Kentucky Derby on television. One of the men watching the race with him turned to the 5'1" Turcotte and said, "Hey, you ought to be a jockey." Turcotte wondered what a jockey was, and the fellow boarder said, "One of them boys in the white pants." Turcotte evidently liked the idea. He visited a track for the first time, and within 14 months he had his first ride. In 1962 he was the leading rider in Canada.

But racing was always kind of a lark for Turcotte. He loved it, no question. Yet when he can be provoked to take a trip down memory lane, he talks of the monthlong stay he made every season at Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "It was just like a big picnic, a place you could bring the family," he says. "The saddling enclosure was under the trees, and you would walk right among the crowd. And after my morning exercise I might take an hour fishing in a stream or lake alongside the road on my way home. After racing, if I felt like fishing, I'd stop back. You could ride horses through the trails of the Adirondacks, eat dinner at different farmhouses with friends. I always rode more horses there and felt the most refreshed." Now he thinks he might have taken all that for granted.

In the years since he returned to Drummond, where as a boy he would snake logs from the woods with a team of horses, Turcotte has lived life one day at a time, raising four daughters in affluence thanks to nearly $3 million he earned as a jockey. If the normal duties of husband and father haven't been distracting enough, he has been haunted by pain and sickness. It's a mistake, Turcotte says, to assume that similarly injured people are similarly handicapped. The popular image of the guy who crosses the continent in a wheelchair is unrealistic; some days Turcotte can't wheel the length of his driveway. Sometimes he's housebound for a month. Even when he's in relatively good health, he can't always summon a full day's worth of energy.

"It makes it hard to plan," he says. He thinks of training horses someday, of somehow getting back to the track. But time passes. He is 48 now. The complimentary copy of the Daily Racing Form arrives, and he reads it. Hunting season comes, and he sights a moose from his specially equipped van and bags it. "The days never seem long," he says. "But I don't know where they go."

Just this year he has gone back to school—he dropped out in the seventh grade—to get his high-school equivalency degree. It's hard work, he says, but there has to be a future in education. He sits by the window looking out on his property and scribbles homework in his notebooks. He is beginning to think ahead. Maybe he'll even go back to Saratoga next summer.

Bob Hurt, 50, suggests that his visitor meet him in the infield of the Daytona International Speedway, where he likes to spend some of his time. Cars are being tested this day, and throughout the interview a red car and a blue car play a noisy game of tag on the giant and otherwise empty tri-oval. After every five laps or so, the cars return to the pits and Florida reclaims some of its serenity. But soon the cars roll back onto the track and destroy the calm.

"Music to my ears," Hurt says as Vivien Veerkamp, his young companion, moves his wheelchair into the afternoon sun. Hurt often raced at Daytona, and a promotional banner for the 24-hour event in February reminds him of the track's special appeal during the famous endurance test. "At five in the morning, when all the partying in the infield has died down and everybody's asleep, and the smoke from the campfires is just drifting over the's just exhilarating."

Stock cars are what Hurt started racing. He was 15, six years below the age limit, when he answered his first green flag in 1954. "All this noise and horsepower and dust, all this mayhem, cars side by side into the first turn," he recalls. Talk about exhilaration! When officials finally demanded his birth certificate, Hurt changed its date to make himself 21 and spent a week aging the paper. He used battery acid, ink and sandpaper until the document looked like the Magna Charta. The officials laughed, saying it was obviously a forgery. "Obviously? Obviously?" Hurt replied, furious. "I worked a week on that!"

So he went to Canada and learned to drive sports cars, horsing a big Ferrari around the turns, the car's rear end slipping way out. He impressed some folks, and by the time he had passed the legal driving age in the U.S., there was a man who wanted him to drive his car at Indy. Somebody always had a ride for Hurt, although the cars were castoffs and the parts were secondhand. One of the car owners bought used pistons from A.J. Foyt. "In a turn, I'd close my eyes and count to five, and if I didn't hit the wall...." He's kidding, sort of.

At the 1968 Indy time trials, after days of rain, Hurt took an unfamiliar car onto the track. Maybe there was moisture on the first turn, or maybe driver Mike Mosley dumped some oil ahead of him. Hurt had his eyes open, that's for sure. The rear end of his car sailed out, and as he watched the infield recede at an alarming rate, he backed into the wall. He hit it dead square, then slid another quarter-mile down the course to the second turn.

There was a flash fire behind him, and scalding oil and water were pouring onto his lower body, so Hurt quickly reached for his belt release. Right arm wouldn't move. Left arm wouldn't move. "Great," he thought. "Two broken arms and there goes not just Indy but Phoenix and Milwaukee." It wasn't much later that a group of doctors appeared in his hospital room and told him he would never again have movement below his neck. At the time, it seemed to Hurt that the doctors were curt and that after giving him the bad news they practically ran out of the room.

Veerkamp reddens; she must have heard this story before. Hurt is nothing if not a storyteller. Throughout the interview she rests her foot lightly against his leg. Sometimes she wipes his brow, which glistens in the sun. Once, she helps him smoke a cigarette, taking it away after each puff.

The doctors were wrong—isn't this an old story?—at least to some degree. In 1970 a surgeon in Toronto performed a dangerous operation to remove bone chips from Hurt's spinal column. Three months later a fly landed on his right hand and he casually shucked it off. What! He had gotten back some movement in his shoulder and arm.

Hurt, who is supported by earnings from his racing days and by contributions from the U.S. Auto Club, set out to investigate the treatment of spinal-cord injuries. He subscribed to medical journals and made contacts throughout the world. In fact, the pursuit of treatment became his life's work. Hurt traveled to Leningrad for enzyme treatments and also spent time in a decompression chamber there. He consulted with doctors at clinics in France, England and Colombia, but they declined to operate on him because his condition was worse than that of other candidates for treatment. Recently he visited Stockholm to look into a procedure in which surgeons remove scar tissue from the spinal cord and implant brain tissue from human embryos.

You wonder at his determination. Well, Hurt explains, wouldn't it be nice to be able to feed oneself, to bathe oneself? "This is a very humiliating injury," he says, his smile freezing. At the end of the day he asks his visitor to help him into his car's passenger seat. "Just grab me under the arms," he says, laughing, "and swing me like a bale of hay." Dignity in such circumstances is hard to maintain.

Otherwise, Hurt remains hell on wheels. "We've rearranged a few stores," Veerkamp says. "There was that Charmin display," Hurt says of an incident in a supermarket. It was just too tempting. "I remember the store manager coming over and saying, 'I had a feeling you'd be trouble.' " One year when he returned to Indianapolis for the 500—"I live for the opportunity to go to the races"—he was being wheeled down Gasoline Alley when he saw one of those early, pessimistic doctors. "Let's catch him," he said, and as his wheelchair drew abreast of the doctor, Hurt reached out and goosed him. The doctor pretended to be pleased.

It has been relatively quiet on the Daytona track. But then the two cars roar out of the pits once more. The straightaway is behind Hurt, and he can't see the cars as they approach the first turn to the infield portion of the circuit. But he correctly anticipates the gear changes and shoots his right hand out as if to shift. He and Veerkamp laugh like teenagers. After an accident in a women's bicycle race in Malibu in 1982, Barbara Buchan was delivered to doctors as a badly skinned bag of parts. Except for the left temporal lobe of her brain, the parts were in wonderful shape, as you would expect in an Olympic-level cyclist. Think of her heart—just 25 years old, conditioned by hill climbs and 80-kilometer races. The persons who would get her organs were about to move up in class.

In fact, Buchan's father, Gil, heard that a doctor said he wouldn't operate on Barbara for fear of damaging those organs. The violence of the pileup, a 20-bike spill that occurred after one rider's tire ticked another on a descent of the Mulholland Highway, had thrown Buchan across the pavement and left her severely brain damaged. The doctor was thinking of her only as a potential organ donor. Gil Buchan got other doctors and saved his daughter's life.

For a long time there wasn't much reason to think he had done the sensible thing. After nine hours of surgery, Buchan's new doctors said she would be a vegetable. "You don't know Barbara," replied her father. She was on full life support for three weeks and in a coma for eight, and when she finally regained consciousness she was so brain damaged that it was hard for her family to be encouraged. Two weeks later, Buchan still couldn't recognize her father.

She also couldn't speak and couldn't walk. She had to be taught to brush her teeth, but she lost the ability when her body rejected the plate the surgeons had placed in her skull, causing an infection that damaged the nerves connecting her brain to her limbs. The joints in her arms became calcified, locking her elbows at 90-degree angles and leaving each arm a useless, crooked bone. Worse yet: Because of the brain trauma, she had acquired cerebral palsy and was subject to grand-mal seizures—severe convulsions that were sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness.

At the time of the accident, which happened in a qualifier for the 1982 world championships, Buchan was one of about 10 women vying for a spot on the U.S. national cycling team. Once a 5,000- and 10,000-meter runner at Boise State, she had recently switched to competitive cycling, and her progress had been astonishing. There had been no doubt in her mind that she would make the Olympic trials. But that chance was gone now, wasn't it? As her condition improved, therapists began teaching her to walk again, to read and write, to do the things that would allow her a life of independence. Only a life of independence? They didn't know Barbara. She laughs now at their limited agenda. "I was training for the 1984 trials," she says.

When she returned to her home, near Boise, Idaho, she developed her own rehabilitation program. The doctors and therapists had not accounted for the fire and discipline of a competitive athlete. For example, nobody had made allowances for Buchan's need to run. Imagine this scene: Buchan finally explodes from her house—"I've gotta run, I've gotta run"—and tears off around the block, knees knocking, with her terrified mother in hot pursuit.

But making the 1984 trials wasn't possible; only one of her arms had been restored to normal use by the time the Summer Games began. And the seizures would never allow her to cycle safely in a pack. Still, Buchan didn't let the dream go until the medals were distributed in Los Angeles. "There," she said to herself, "that's done. Now I can start something else."

In 1986, by then living on her own in San Diego, she was alerted to the possibilities in sports for the disabled. "My mind started clicking again," she says. She began cycling and, though she still suffers spasticity in her left leg and weakness in her arms, worked herself up to the highest level in the cerebral-palsy category. She now holds the world records for the 5,000- and 10,000-meter events. In 1988 at the Seoul Paralympics, because women's cycling was deleted from the schedule Buchan entered the 800- and 400-meter runs. Though she pulled a groin muscle before the 800, she won a silver medal in that event and then finished fourth in the 400.

Buchan sees herself eventually coaching other disabled athletes and perhaps running a training center for the disabled, much like the U.S. Olympic Committee's center for able-bodied athletes in Colorado Springs. But that's someday. Right now she's training for the 1992 Paralympics, in Barcelona. She tires easily, has to take strong medicines and suffers what she calls "big-time seizures." But she recently has added swimming to her regimen and intends to enter the 100-meter breaststroke in addition to cycling and track events in Barcelona. "I'm not an average person," Buchan says.

No, she isn't.

Nothing ever broke right for Sugar Ray Seales after he won the Olympic gold medal for light welterweights in 1972. You could blame it on timing. When terrorists massacred Israelis at the Olympic Village in Munich, Seales's glory was all but forgotten. It amounted to nothing, really. Seales went home to Tacoma, Wash., and was promoted as follows: "Come See Sugar Ray Seales at Taco Time."

Here is the difference between things that break right and things that don't. The next Sugar Ray—Leonard—pulled down $40,000 for his pro debut in 1977. Debut! That's the kind of money an Olympic gold medal was worth by 1976. In Seales's entire career—he was 53-7-3, most often fighting in towns like Hoquiam, Wash., Pikeville, Ky., and Billings, Mont.—he never once got as much money as Leonard did in his first fight. For his last fight, Seales earned $9,500, but the check bounced. By then he was almost blind.

That's another thing that didn't break right. An eye goes out, you get it fixed, you go back to the gym. That's what Leonard did when he suffered a detached retina. And that's what Seales did. But in Seales's case, considerable scar tissue developed. Is that why his retinas became as worn as old dollar bills, as if folded and crumpled over and over again until holes appeared in them? Leonard had one operation and returned to the ring to gather millions. Seales had seven operations, and today he sits in his trim apartment in Tacoma, his bankruptcy declaration behind him, and peers at you through his "good" right eye. The other eye, it's like somebody is holding a brick in front of it.

It was a sad thing, that enveloping darkness. Seales was still chasing Marvin Hagler in 1983. He had had his disappointments. In 1974 he was persuaded to fight Hagler in a TV studio on short notice—at times he has said he thought the bout would be an exhibition—and lost a decision that proved a turning point in both boxers' careers. Seales fought Hagler to a draw in a rematch later that year, but nobody noticed; that fight wasn't on TV. A loss to Hagler in 1979 was another blow to Seales's career, though he claims Hagler never hurt him; after Hagler knocked him down three times in the first round, the referee stopped the fight.

Anyway, 1983: "I'm 30 and on the winning trend," Seales recalls. Another rematch with Hagler seemed possible. The previous year, Seales had even showed up at a Hagler fight in Boston to challenge him. He sat in the crowd, confident, except that he saw clouds appear above the ring. No matter. "Back home again, I'm training in the gym, I'm going gangbusters," he says, "but I notice that my brother Roy—and he doesn't know anything about boxing—is connecting on me. I tell my trainer maybe he needs to put some new light bulbs in the gym." An eye specialist examined Seales and delivered the news: "This man's been legally blind for 18 months."

The operations that followed restored some vision to Seales's right eye, hardly any to his left. Gone forever was his earning power as a fighter. Sammy Davis Jr. heard of Seales's plight and gave a benefit performance for the boxer in 1984. But that didn't break right, either. The benefit lost $25,000, and Seales's medical bills of more than $100,000 remained unpaid. There was nothing for him to do but file for bankruptcy and get on with a life that would forever be conducted in the gauzy world of the nearly blind. "Nineteen years of boxing, 430 fights," he says. Nothing.

"So I got a job," he says, as if still surprised by the idea. A man in his mid-30's, no skills, no job experience. One day his aunt Lois Encarnación told him of an opening in a Tacoma school district for a paraprofessional. Seales had no idea what the job was, but he was sure he was suited for it because he had only recently left the ranks of the fully professional. He went to work at Lincoln High School, helping autistic children go to the toilet. "Not artistic," he says, "but like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Autistic."

Taking children to the toilet was the original job, but Seales has turned it into something more. "What I am really doing," he says, "is teaching them independence." Four days a week, he stands over the children at their workshop, in which they do simple manual labor such as packing doll heads into boxes. Another day each week he takes the class to an apartment where they practice housekeeping skills, which can keep the lucky ones from graduating to an institution.

Seales has been doing this for three years, which is about 2½ more than he thought he would. The wages are low, and for a man who made something of a name for himself in boxing, surely there are other opportunities. "Now that Boeing's settled their strike," Seales says, "and I have friends there, I could look into it. But then again, I'm not ready to leave the kids just yet."

He tells the story of 22-year-old Doug, one of his former students. "This student, you had to stay on task every second. 'Next one, let's go, babe. Next one, Doug.' Every second. It got so bad we used to kid each other, 'C'mon, wanna fight?' Well, I went to a work site before this summer to see where he's at. This kid is standing by himself, nobody controlling him, assembling cardboard boxes. He assembles them, goes to another site and puts them down, then he gets some more and comes back to his work site, and he keeps working. I had worked with this kid every day for a year. And now he was out there and he was doing it on his own.

"Maybe I was somebody after all," Seales says. When Doug looked up and recognized him and said, "C'mon, wanna fight?" the gold medal winner for whom nothing had broken quite right began to cry. Doug stacking boxes. The big, nearly blind man never thought he would see that.





Paralyzed playing football in '74, Kent Waldrep later married and was able to father a son.



His back broken from a fall in '78, Ron Turcotte lives quietly at his house in eastern Canada.



Paralyzed in a '68 crash, Bob Hurt still frequents tracks with friend Vivien Veerkamp.



Barbara Buchan, who suffered brain damage in a pileup in '82, now races in the Paralympics.



Blows absorbed in professional fights left Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales nearly blind.

I've experienced many more realities. There's no doubt that the injury has made me a better person.

He might have been careless in his ride, but I've caused spills too. It was an accident, just that.

In a turn, I'd close my eyes and count to five, and if I didn't hit the wall....

I'm training in the gym, and I notice my brother, who doesn't know boxing, is connecting on me.