The 14th Annual Athletes with Disabilities (ADN) Hall of Fame induction ceremony and awards dinner was held recently at the MotorCity Casino in Detroit. Since its inception in 1999, ADN has recognized nearly 100 individuals who are regarded as role models by bringing awareness to the general public about athletes with disabilities.
Included in this year’s honorees was Erin Popovich, who was inducted into the National Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in swimming. Popovich was born with a genetic disorder that restricted the growth of her legs and has earned 14 career gold medals in three Paralympic appearances.
Jim Wazny, a professional motocross and snocross racer, was inducted into the Michigan Hall of Fame. After losing his left leg in a motocross accident, Jim returned to racing, winning medals at the Extremity Games, ESPN’s Summer X Games and Winter X Games, among other competitions.
Compuware, a technology performance company, received the Tony Filippis ,Sr. Corporate Leadership Award for its support of organizations such as ADN, the Special Olympics, Easter Seals and the Mental Illness Foundation.
The Rick Knas Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Jeff Coupie, who passed away last August. Coupie, a quadriplegic, was the director of Michigan Sports Unlimited, an organization focused on bringing adaptive sports to individuals with disabilities.
Jessica Long, three-time Paralympic swimming champion, received the Pat McDonald Female Athlete of the Year Award. Long was born without fibulas, ankles or heels, and both of her legs were amputated when she was 13 months old. Long first represented the United States at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens at the age of 12, winning three gold medals. She most recently added five gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal to her collection at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
The Male Athlete of the Year Award was given to Craig DeMartino. DeMartino underwent a transtibial amputation of his right leg after he fell while rock climbing in Colorado. Two years later, DeMartino returned to climbing and was the first amputee to climb the Lurking Fear route, about 3,000 feet in elevation, on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in less than 24 hours. He is a team member for USA Climbing and won a bronze medal at the Paraclimbing World Championships this past September in Paris.
Michael Johnson was honored with the Mark “Doc” Andrews Rising Star Award. At age 12, Johnson sustained a T5-T6 spinal cord injury after a crash during an auto race, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. With modifications to his car, Johnson was able to continue racing and has begun racing professionally. In 2011, he won at Watkins Glen International in New York.
In addition to the athletes recognized, the event aimed to celebrate the accomplishments of all athletes, and the money raised at the event will support ADN’s mission to promote a better quality of life for people with physical disabilities, according to a press release.