Black Diamond

Inga and I agreed to meet at the Coffeehouse near the Belorusskaya metro station. I was a little late and flew into the cafe, not noticing amid the hurrying pedestrians the pretty, young pregnant girl standing near the entrance. Then she called me, and we finally found each other.

Inga Medvedeva was a champion paralympic athlete in skiing. She was 27 and expecting her first child. When you see how she walks along the street, you don't even realize she's missing a leg. While we drank tea, Inga told me her story:

"I was 11. We were in the second week of September and the school year had started, but my mood was still light, as if it were still summer. My sister and I were returning home from school, having taken the regular path through the park to the bus stop. Just a little further and we could see our building.

"Now I remember this day like it was in some other life, as if it wasn't me skipping home after school. Then they told me that the truck driver that hit me was unable to get out of the vehicle; he was in shock. My sister ran to call for an ambulance, to call for help.

"There was serious blood loss and a shattered knee. They amputated the leg at the hip. This was in the 1990s. By winter I returned to school. I was unable to return earlier because we didn't have money for a prosthetic leg. My mom searched through all possible channels and found the money for the leg. I was a good student, but was generally a typical schoolgirl, though I had more male friends than female. I used to just wear pants; I constantly thought to myself, 'Maybe no one will notice.'

Within the framework of The Moscow Times' program "Create Yourself," we have started a series of publications about people who, despite having serious health problems, have been able to find the power and desire to live and grow. Some of them have achieved things that even healthy people can only dream of. Here are two of them -- the others you can read at

The Create Yourself section did not involve the reporting or the editorial staff of The Moscow Times.

"How did I get involved in downhill skiing? I can't say that someone from one of the sports schools came and invited me personally. It all happened because of my mom; she was the one that called the associations, schools, and other institutions for the disabled. One year after the accident I started to attend the sport school Club Hope. In 1995 they chose me for the youth team for the Russian championships and three years later I first attended the Paralympic Games in Nagano. It was another world -- the mountains were higher and the courses were longer and much more difficult. And our equipment wasn't even as good as the standard equipment. I was so upset that I quit skiing. But the sport draws you in like a deep breath and you're stuck. I couldn't stay away for long -- I returned to skiing two years later.

"In 2001 I achieved my first victory and in 2002 I received the bronze medal at the Paralympic Championships in Salt Lake City, my first time competing in downhill skiing. Interestingly, the awards given to paralympic athletes at that time were three times smaller than those given to regular Olympians. Only after the Turin Olympics did Putin make the prize payments equal.

"I now consistently finish in the top three. Even during the fourth month of pregnancy I competed in the Russian Championships. In total I now have four gold medals and one silver medal.

"I decided to have the child myself; the child's father isn't from Russia. Most women decide not to have children, citing the lack of a husband or money as an excuse. But I think that just means they don't want to have kids. But why do I want to do it alone? It's my choice. I can't say that I suffered from a lack of attention. If anything, the opposite is true. I first received a marriage proposal when I was eighteen. I was frightened at the prospect of raising a family and children, so I declined.

"How does one get to know me? Like a regular girl. It's even easier on the slopes. Men are always willing to help. Once a stranger saw me on the street, looked me up on the Internet, and brought flowers to my place. 'You,' he said, 'will be my wife.'

"You ask, 'How can I get this to happen for me?' In Moscow there are many beautiful women, dressed fashionably. But in their eyes there's no joie de vivre, but a look of depression. In another country I once saw a woman in a wheelchair. She was surrounded by her three children and a loving husband -- you should've seen her face!

"What's my desire? I really want to make it to Vancouver in 2010, so I can't leave the team during the pregnancy. If I leave the team for a year I'll lose my spot. So my mom is going to help with the child.

"Am I saddened by my fate? A couple years ago I went to a gathering at the Black Sea. My neighbor was a girl named Ira from Moscow, paralyzed after an accident. Her husband left her and took their child. She got involved in athletics. She could take her wheelchair directly to the sea, and if she starts moving, you won't catch her. One time she urgently needed to get to the dentist, and I drove her to the clinic. There were no ramps, so I had to 'run' to find someone who could lift her up the stairs. I then realized that so many things in this life are relative. Now I keep in touch with her; her son has grown up and is now closer to her than to his father. So she's not alone.

"And so much depends on people themselves, whether they want to live or whether they've already climbed into the coffin. Last year I met a young man, who recently lost an arm. I told him about the sports school and gave him my telephone number. But he didn't come."