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Disabled and empowered — Why I’m championing strong black female athletes

The empowerment one writer feels specifically as a disabled woman

In July and August, espnW’s weekly essay series will focus on body image.

When I was younger, I used to have the same recurring daydream in gym class.

If we were playing softball, I would dream I hit the ball and sprinted to home plate because I deserve to be there, not because my classmates let me slide — like the puck that glided past the goalie and into the net. I won the game, and everything faded away as a single tear rolled down my cheek — the way athletes cry after a championship win in the movies.

Me, midrun, a smile on my face, because I couldn’t believe I was quickly moving.

I have a milder form of cerebral palsy. I walk with a limp. I had given up on the idea of running after surgeries on the right side of my body left me too afraid to relearn how to run.

These reveries left me waiting for a “special talent,” which I assumed all disabled kids had to make up for their disability.

I’m a terrible singer, so I figured I’d find a hidden gift in a sport we played in physical education class.

I never did, and I yearn for representation of people of color with disabilities in sports. So until the work that disabled black women do is recognized, I will continue to champion and celebrate the able-bodied black women.

I cried when I learned that Misty Copeland would be the American Ballet Theatre’s first black female principal dancer. My weeping was not because I had dreams of being a ballet dancer — although I would twirl from the kitchen table to the fridge in my socks, convinced I could pirouette with the best of ballerinas.

I was emotional because ballet, at its core, is both raw and feminine, two things that black women are often not allowed to be.

Then come gymnasts Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez. Not only did they help secure a team gold medal, but Biles is the new Olympic all-around champion and is leaving Rio de Janeiro with five medals.

At 24, I’m older than they are, but I feel a sense of pride when I see them swinging on uneven bars or sticking dismounts on vaults.

I hold my breath with them as they await their scores and cheer when I feel they received the ones they deserved.

The Olympics are the ultimate dream.

Our bodies are in no way identical, and we are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Read more at espnW.

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.