Naperville native Sarah Adam overcomes adversity to compete in the 2024 Paralympic Games

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Sarah Adam, a Naperville native, has emerged as a symbol of triumph in adaptive sports. Her journey to the top of the male-dominated sport Wheelchair rugby, also known as ‘Murderball,’ is not just about her athletic achievement but overcoming unpredictable challenges.

Sarah Adam’s passion for sports growing up

Adam’s early life was marked by her passion for sports, particularly softball, where she excelled at Naperville North. Her athletic journey was unique from the start, as she often played alongside other guys playing male-dominated sports growing up.

“I think it’s a motivator for me, to be honest. In the beginning, I didn’t really even notice much of a difference. I grew up playing with my brother. He’s a year older than I am in male sports. I played baseball. All of the soccer team I was on was always his soccer team and with all his guys and friends. And so I wasn’t that much different for me to be around guys in an athletic environment,” said Adam.

Adam’s receives Multiple Sclerosis diagnoses, yet prevails over the chronic disease

Life took a turn when Adam was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 25, an incurable and disabling disease of the brain and central nervous system. The life-changing illness changed not only her physical abilities but also her life as a whole. Yet, Adam, an occupational therapist and professor at St. Louis University, saw this as an opportunity to redefine her identity and purpose.

“I think one of it starts with that disability identity and being able to manage myself as a person with a disability and manage my physical health and my mental health and get back to having a purpose in my life, and that’s really what occupational therapists do. We help people reengage in meaningful activity after injury illness. And so for me, it was I’ve always said, ‘Who better than an occupational therapist to help manage this disease?'” said Adam.

Adam’s achievements in wheelchair rugby are groundbreaking. In November, she became the first woman to be a part of a gold medal team at the Parapan American Games in Chile, qualifying Team USA to play in the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. Adam will be the second woman ever to play at the games. Despite all she has achieved in athletics, the former Huskie is aware of the limited time she may have to participate in the sport due to her condition and is making the most of her opportunity.

“The truth is I probably have a timeline here, like my multiple sclerosis will get worse soon point where I’m not going be able to compete. So this very well could be if I get, you know, get into this fight, could be the only opportunity for me to go compete in the Paralympics. So I want to make sure I’m doing it the right way and that there’s no regrets,” said Adam.

Adam aims to get more disabled people into adaptive sports

Despite these challenges, Adam remains focused, and understanding the ‘why’ behind her actions is essential to her success.

“You just constantly think of your why, your purpose of where I’m at, why am I teaching? What do I get out of teaching? Why do I enjoy it? What do I get out of rugby and being an athlete and keeping that why keeps me going,” said Adam.

Adam is also passionate about promoting adaptive sports and its potential to transform lives, emphasizing the need for greater awareness and participation.

“There’s still a lot of people out there right now that aren’t don’t know the power of adaptive sports and don’t know that that’s a sport that they can play. So I want to try to do anything that we can do to get that message out there and expose people to it after sports and get kids to try it out and get parents to see that their kiddos are going to be okay. I think it is meaningful,” said Adam.

As Adam gears up for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, she carries with her the aspirations of an athlete and the hopes of many who see her as a hero who has broken barriers and redefined what’s possible, inspiring others along the way.

For more prep sports highlights, visit the Naperville Sports Weekly page!