With the cool strength found mostly in mature adults with years of life experience, Allison Jones discusses her life. A right transfemoral amputee almost since birth, Jones, now 24 years old, does not view that as a disability.
“I only knew one way and that was with one leg,” she said.
She has taken that way further than anyone thought she would.
Born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, Jones was only 9 months old when doctors fused her knee joint and amputated her right foot. Childhood went on as it would for any young girl. She learned the basics of moving through life with only one natural leg and thrived.
Looking back on her life, she even sees an advantage in having her amputation at such a young age.
“I think it was simpler not relearning how to do anything,” she said. “It is just how I was.”
The biggest adjustment for her was dealing with children who were cruel, poking fun at her prosthesis. Once she proved to them that she was able to participate – and excel at – the same activities they were, they accepted her without issue.
Jones, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., started skiing when she was 5 years old. She also played recreational soccer and softball, and spent time skateboarding and rollerblading with other children in her neighborhood. She led what she calls an “active, normal childhood,” despite having only one leg.
She credits her mother with persistence in getting her to try various activities. She insisted that Jones and her younger sister play outdoors.
“Staying inside all day was not an option,” Jones said.
Challenged Athletes Foundation
Soon participating in these sports was not enough for Jones — she wanted to compete. Outdoor sports like skiing and cycling gave her an outlet for that aspiration. The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) gave her the means.
When Jones was 16 years old, she received a grant from the CAF to help her afford to ski competitively in the Canadian Nationals for the first time.
“At the beginning, I needed help with funds so that I could afford to train full time and cover the cost of gas for my mom and myself,” she told O&P Business News.
This year, Jones has received a grant for a new bicycle for the Paralympics through CAF’s Access for Athletes program.
Access for Athletes provides resources for adaptive sports equipment, sports prostheses, training expenses and competition grants for people with physical challenges, according to CAF’s Web site. The program aims to give both competitive and recreational athletes a means to participate in sports.
CAF believes that this assistance increases participants’ physical fitness and activity levels, as well as their confidence and self-esteem, the program’s Web site states. She appreciates the organization’s support.
“They are willing to step up and help you wherever they can,” she said.
Going for gold
Currently, Jones holds positions on both the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team and the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team. This year’s Paralympics in Beijing will mark her fourth Paralympic games. In Salt Lake City in 2002, Jones collected two silver medals in the super-G and the giant slalom. In Torino, Italy in 2006, she was awarded a gold medal in the slalom.
In Beijing from Sept. 6-17, Jones will participate in each of the cycling events for women: the 500-meter, sprints and a 3,000-meter pursuit on the Velodrome; and a 24-K time trial on the road.
Jones’ ability extends beyond the track and the slopes. In 2007, she graduated from Denver University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and won the Pioneer Award, the highest achievement an undergraduate can receive.
She spends her free time doodling and building with Legos, but hopes that someday those designs will help her open a successful prosthetic device company.
“I love trying to build new adaptive equipment for myself and for others, for competition or just to go out and enjoy themselves,” she said.
Jones plans to give her all to her career in the future. Now, she concentrates on reaching her best in cycling and skiing.
“All it is for me is … pushing forward, just as long as I am enjoying life and have a smile at the end of the day,” she said.
For other amputees hoping to break into competitive athletics, she has one recommendation: “Don’t regret anything, no matter what it is. Enjoy it, embrace it, run with it and have fun,” she said.
She strictly follows her own advice because, as she says, “If you’re not having fun then what are you doing?”
For more information:
- CAF’s 2009 Access for Athletes grant applications are available online as of Sept. 1. Applications must be postmarked to the CAF office by Dec. 1.
Stephanie Z. Pavlou is a staff writer for O&P Business News.