TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Shelby Baron is one of 22 current or former Alabama athletes competing in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Baron was born with spina bifida but didn’t let it keep her from achieving her dreams. She comes with a variety of identities. She comes from Hawaii, is a student at the University of Alabama and this week she’s representing America at the Paralympics.

“Just thinking about this competition that brings everybody from all the sports around the world, the best of the best, to this one venue, all competing for gold, I’m just really excited to just see this great event happening,” Baron said.

It’s happening because of her identity on the tennis court, an identity she never lost in spite of her disability.

“To be able to play a sport and just get out there, even though you have a disability, really helps with confidence,” Baron said, “and then when you play with a bunch of your peers, it just kind of pushes you to become better.”

This year, when trying to qualify for the Paralympics, Baron just missed the automatic qualifier and so she thought she wasn’t going.

“We worked hard,” her coach Evan Enquist said. “We worked together on her ranking, on her score and trying to get her up there, and then she didn’t qualify for the top 22. She didn’t make that cutoff automatically, and then all of a sudden she gets a call from the national coach saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to Rio.’”

So that’s her new identity, a Paralympian representing USA and UA.

“Being a part of Alabama, I think it’s just always going to be with her,” Enquist said, “and I’m sure she’ll bring her Bama gear. She won’t be probably wearing it on the court, but she’ll have her Bama gear with her in Rio, I’m sure.”

Representing Bama, representing America and representing strength and the ability to overcome obstacles.

Categories: Sports