Fifteen-year-old Erica Silvey has had a prosthetic leg for as long as she can remember. “It hasn’t been a problem at all,” she said. Born with fibular hemimelia, the congenital absence of the fibula, required her to get surgery at just ten months old. Since then, she has been a below-the-knee amputee and that is really all she has ever known.

Sports are also something very familiar to Silvey, who has participated in soccer for years. The Tallahassee, Florida, resident has participated in a number of able-bodied sporting activities, including being a member of an elite travel team in soccer. This year, she also joined her high school’s track team. What is new to her are adaptive sports. “Until recently, I had never played adaptive sports,” she said.

Although Silvey likes soccer and track equally, she became a member of Disabled Sports USA’s E-Team in track and field. The E-Team is designed to support and empower emerging youth athletes ages 13-24 with disabilities who are training competitively in sports that are featured in the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.

In January 2016, Silvey received a running blade thanks to the support of a local foundation. Silvey’s first race was in June of that year at the Endeavor Games, hosted by the University of Central Oklahoma’s Center of Adaptive Sports, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA. It was there that she set the U16 National Record in her classification and qualified to participate in the Junior Nationals. In only her second track and field event, she was able to improve her times in the 100m and 200m, and her distance in the long jump.

In 2017, Silvey competed in the Desert Challenge Games hosted by Arizona Disabled Sports, another chapter of Disabled Sports USA, finishing in the top five in all three events. She qualified for the Nationals (adult) held in Los Angeles a month later and was the youngest in her T44 class. Last August, she traveled to Switzerland for the World Para Athletics Junior Championships to represent Team USA. Prior to joining her high school track team, she had only participated in five competitions, quickly building up her rankings to 13th in the world and 11th in the world in the 200m.

At first, Silvey trained on her own with no coaching. The scholarship provided by DSUSA to E-Team members allowed her a personal trainer. In addition, Silvey has been able to benefit from visits to the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training facility. “I work out five days a week, constantly go on long runs, and focus on improving my footwork and movement,” she said.

There is no doubt she has set some high goals. “I want to go to Worlds and the ParaPanAm Games in 2019 and the Paralympics in 2020, where I would like to medal,” Silvey said.

Besides soccer and track, she enjoys hanging out with her friends. In fact, one of her biggest competitors happens to be one of her closest friends. “On the track, we are ‘enemies’, she jokingly stated. “We push each other to be our best.” 

The 4.0 high school student appreciates being on the E-Team, as it has provided her with an opportunity to be recognized as an emerging athlete.