Anjali Forber-Pratt, a two time Paralympian in track and field, has been involved with adaptive sports from a young age. Anjali embodies Disabled Sports USA’s motto, “If I can do this, I can do anything” having completed her PhD in Human Resource Education from the University of Illinois, written a children’s book in addition to being a full time athlete.
1. How do you think getting involved in adaptive sports at a young age has affected your athletic career?
AFP: “I got involved with disabled sports at about 5 years old. There was a Saturday sports clinic that was my first exposure, with mostly wheelchair racing and downhill skiing. For me, growing up with a disability and being an athlete gave me the chance to dream and really set goals for myself.”
2. What is your favorite track and field event?
AFP: “The 200 is my favorite event, hands down. For me, being a sprinter, the power events and starts are my strong suite, so I love them. The 800 is the most challenging, but I think we all need challenges to really make us better athletes and better people in general.”
3. Is there anyone who has been your role model throughout your career?
AFP: “I have two role models that have really inspired me. Jean Driscoll is an eight-time winner of the Boston marathon, and she also went to college at the University of Illinois. When I was five, my first exposure to sports was growing up watching the Boston Marathon. I saw these wheelchair racers go whizzing by, and Jean was one of them. She was a woman in a wheelchair, doing this really cool sport, and I wanted to be like her; to the point where I even dressed up as the winner of the Boston marathon for Halloween! I also wrote a story about her in 3rd grade called “When I Meet Jean Driscoll.’ I was able to follow in her footsteps with my sports abilities, and I actually got to work right alongside her. Her office is right across the hall from mine, and we share the same passion for international sports outreach. I got to travel to Ghana with her to pursue our passions, and to be able to do that with your role model is really amazing. Another role model for me is actually Liz Craveiro, from DSUSA. I had the incredible opportunity of living with Liz, and for me the important part of the relationship that we had was about her not sugar-coating anything. She taught me that there will always be challenging days living with a disability, but beyond that, the sky is the limit. She was the first woman with a disability that I was close to that was married, had a job, and was really dedicated to all of it, and that really stayed with me . One thing she continually teaches me is the importance of picking and choosing your battles. As a woman with a disability, yes there will be challenges, but she really helped me gain that perspective to really pick my battles and go after my goals in life.”
4. How has Disabled Sports USA contributed to your athletic and personal success?
AFP: “Oh my goodness, in so many ways! Disabled Sports USA: I could go on and on for hours about them. They gave me that extended family. They introduced me to people who loved me for me, and I didn’t have to hide behind a false image; I could be who I am. They exposed me to tremendous sports opportunities, and introduced me to the thrill of competition, which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Through DSUSA, I have met so many lifelong friends and mentors. It’s incredible what DSUSA has done for me to reach the level of success I have reached. They showed me what was possible, and this may sound cliché, but through them I really gained confidence as a woman in sports. I always thought of the Paralympics as the big leagues, and meeting people at DSUSA who have been there really taught me that if the Paralympics are my dream, I actually can achieve it, and that it’s not just a dream. It was the first time I really had that face time with other Paralympians. It inspired me, by the true definition of the word. It really motivated me to work towards getting to the Paralympics, and I honestly consider them as being a part of my family.”
5. Your motto is Dream, Drive, Do. How does this motto motivate you?
AFP: “It came about through asking myself, ‘what do I have to offer to the world?’ I live by these words, and it’s a message that really resonates with a lot of people. We all have the ability to dream, and as a kid I may have had distinct and lofty dreams, but it all starts with a dream. With any dream there will be obstacles. That’s just part of life, and that’s where drive comes from. Obstacles are just opportunities in disguise, and it’s important to drive through and keep your dream in mind to get to the top. Finally, there’s no sense in having dreams if you’re not going to achieve or at least attempt to achieve them. It is my motivation to help others find the opportunities that exist. It’s about finding what you want to do, and going out and doing it. Live your dream, drive through the hard times, and do whatever it is you need to do to sing through those hard times.”
6. Do you have any motivational advice for other young disabled athletes?
AFP: “I would say reach out to your local Disabled Sports chapter. For me, it was literally taking the time to try out new things, because you never know what you’re going to love. For me, at the Saturday sports clinic that I first got involved in, I got to try everything. There’s probably not a sport that I haven’t tried, and if there is, I would want to try it. The different chapters will give you the sports that are out there, and you can go and explore what you love. As a kid, it gave me that recreational component, and just surrounded me with people who love me for me. I didn’t have to be embarrassed by my disability, and that’s equally important. Not everyone has to have the Paralympics as a dream. It’s whatever you want to do. It’s whatever your dreams are. Just get out there and get involved in your community.”