Kasey Nickell is thrilled to represent the U.S. at the IWAS Games this year for her first time.
Before Kasey Nickell took her first breath of air, she experienced a tragedy that most people don’t experience in their lifetime. She had a stroke at birth that caused permanent spasticity on the right side of her body. Fortunately, no further damages were done, and the 15-year-old has lived a simple life.
“I don’t know anything else,” Nickell says. “My parents have never let me use my disability as an excuse.”
Nickell’s parents have always been very supportive of her dreams. Her dad was even her softball coach for a majority of her softball career, and both parents cheer her on at her competitions, no matter the distance.
“My parents have always encouraged me to play sports,” she says. “They never let me quit, even when things didn’t go my way.”
Nickell has never let anything get in the way of being an athlete. She started playing softball at a very young age and has continued to participate in different sports. Her favorite sport is track and field. She started competing in track and field two years ago, yet she’s already competing at the international level and she holds the American Paralympic records in both shot put and discus.
The Wichita, Kan. native will be competing at the International Wheelchair and Amputee (IWAS) Games for the first time this year.
“I applied with hope that my success last year would let me represent the United States at IWAS,” she says. “I am new to this level of competition, so I’m still learning the ropes. I competed at the Desert Challenge Games last year and really enjoyed competing against all of the other countries. I loved seeing athletes from the other countries and hearing the different languages and accents.”
Nickell is proud to represent Team USA this summer. She is competing with her high school track and field team to stay in shape and be ready for the IWAS Games. After track season ends, Nickell will continue to train with her coaches to be fully prepared to compete. Going into a competition can be tough, but Nickell knows how to calm her nerves. Before each competition, she listens to music and likes to visualize her throws.
While she grew up with a pretty simple life, Nickell has had to overcome many obstacles. At one point she had to have surgery on her right leg for tendon lengthening, which led to taking a break from sports and going to school in a full leg cast. Another challenge she faces in her disability not always being visible. She knows she has a disability, but it is not always clear to other people.
“I think the most difficult thing is when people don’t notice my disability and assume that I can do something, such as using both of my hands,” she says. “I can’t hold anything with my right hand and that makes my art class challenging at times.”
Sports have helped Nickell in more ways than she could’ve ever imagined. Since she started track and field, she has more confidence, she is more outspoken, and she has been getting great recognition at school for all her athletic achievements. Nickell was able to meet her favorite athlete, Paralympian Jeremy Campbell, at the Endeavor Games. After she met him, he wished her good luck and she set an adaptive national record for the under 16 F37 category.
When Nickell needs help moving forward, she remembers this quote from Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
“Don’t let other people’s opinions keep you from doing a sport,” she says. “You may have a disability but think of [your disability] as doing things in a more advanced way. You never know what you can do until you try it.”