SARASOTA — The smile on Jacqui Kapinowski's face, as wide as her scull was long, wasn't going anywhere.
But she was. To Rio.
“It's mind-blowing,” she said. A 53-year-old, retired, who got back into the water just 13 months ago, had defeated a 28-year-old competitor.
So what that Jacqui Kapinowski couldn't stand to receive her flowers, her gold medal? A disease called stiff person syndrome (SPS) long ago stole her ability to walk. No feeling below her eighth thoracic vertebra.
But plenty above it. “The disease doesn't define who I am.” Last March, a company gave Jacqui a boat. Another provided the oars, “and here I am today.”
And that was Sunday morning, Nathan Benderson Park, for the finals of the 2016 U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials for rowing. Kapinowski, her race the second of eight, qualified for the Paralympic Games, taking first in the women's arm and shoulders single scull.
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