Paralympic Athletes Join PADI to Promote Conservation and Diving With Disabilities
PADI is highlighting the work of two Paralympians who are helping to inspire people with disabilities to take up diving, ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics, which begin on 24 August.
Alana Nichols of the USA and Germany's Edina Müller have been competing at the Paralympics since 2008, winning gold medal across several disciplines. Both have spinal injuries and require wheelchairs at the surface, but the two women have found freedom in the underwater world, and are advocating for more people with disabilities to learn to dive under the auspices of PADI's Adaptive Teaching techniques.
7x American Paralympian (2008-2021), Wheelchair Basketball, Kayaking and Alpine Skiing
Alana Nichols was an up-and-coming snowboarder from New Mexico when, at the age of 17, she suffered a spinal cord injury while attempting a backflip on her snowboard., but that didn’t stop her from becoming a Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball player, Sprint Kayaker and Alpine Skier. Nichols chas competed in six Paralympic Games, winning three Olympic gold medals in the process, and is preparing to compete in her seventh in Tokyo this month.
Nichols is an advocate for people with disabilities and has appeared on a number TV shows, inluding the The Today Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. She won the first ever all-female adaptive surf competition and has recently added scuba diving to her skill set, taking her Open Water course with PADI AmbassaDiver Leo Morales, a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor based in Cozumel who lost his leg to Cancer in 2008, and whose team specialises in adaptive teaching techniques, encouraging people with disabilities to learn to dive - which Nichols will continue in her role as PADI Ambassadiver.
'Spending most of my waking hours in a wheelchair can be painful on my back and neck but once I’m in the ocean I feel so relieved,' said Nichol. 'Also, I really liked doing all the skills I had to accomplish when getting my OW cert. I like the challenge and mastering the skills.
'For me, its an honour to help other newly spinal cord injured individuals or just someone that wants to see that diving is possible and fun,' she said. 'I am mentoring a woman right now who is only months into a wheelchair after a traumatic accident. She was very active before her injury and used to travel and hike and dive, and while some of those things are no longer as available to her, diving is.'
x4 German Paralympian (2008-2021) Wheelchair Basketball and Kayaking
On top of the water, Edina Müller of Brühl, Germany, is one of the fastest Paralympic kayakers in the world, having won Paralympic Gold and Silver, along with setting Paralympic and World Records for her specialty, the K1 200m sprint. She also took the gold medal with her team-mates in the 2012 Paralympics wheelchair basketball event. Müller has competed at the Paralympics since 2008 and her sights are set once more on gold at the Tokyo Paralympics later this month.
Outside of her devotion to athletics, Müller is also a sports therapist, PADI Rescue Diver and PADI Freediver who has become just as passionate passionate about demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of the ocean and scuba diving to her patients, as she is to winning Paralympic gold. Through her work as a sports therapist, Müller helps people who have experienced spinal cord injuries get back into active, self-determined lives. Inspired by her own love for the ocean, she started a program to give her patients the opportunity to try diving for the first time, feeling weightless again and experiencing the freedom to move in the underwater environment.
Travelling the world as a PADI Ambassadiver, Müller is striving to make this disabled diving programmes available to everybody because, as she says, 'water is barrier free.' Besides passing on her experiences to people with disabilities, she is an advocate for diving in a natural and sustainable way to preserve the ecosystem and her favorite gentle giants, manta rays, for future generations.
You can learn more about the PADI Ambassadiver programme and its members at www.padi.com/ambassadivers