Heroes with multiple sclerosis at the Paralympics

PyeongChang’s Winter Olympics is just a memory and now it’s time for the Paralympians to show what they can do.

Among those competing this year, to the best of my knowledge, there are three hero Paralympians who have multiple sclerosis. There may be more but these are the three I know about – if you know of anyone else, please let me know.

People who take part in the Paralympics, must have a disability, but not just any disability. To qualify, it has to be one of 10 types. Potential competitors’ disabilities are measured to enable the athletes to be classified. This is do they take part in events, competing against fellow athletes with the same or similar disabilities.


Skier Danelle Umstead.

Danelle Umstead was competing as a USA Paralympian before she received the diagnosis that she has MS. This is because she lost her sight due to retinitis pigmentosa when she was just 13 years old.

She took up skiing when she was 29. Ten years later, she won two bronze medals, in downhill and super-combined, at the 2010 Paralympic games. After that, it was not long before she learned she had MS.

Twin disabilities

Handling the effects of two disabilities, she won on to win bronze medal in the super-combined at Sochi in 2014-

This time round Danelle is down to compete in no less than five skiing events. These are the downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G and super-combined.


Curler Hugh Nibloe.

Hugh Nibloe is to make debut at this year’s Paralympics in PyeongChang, as a member of Great Britain’s wheelchair curling team.

He has been an athlete for many years. He played rugby until he was given the diagnosis that he had MS, when he was 24. That was 12 years ago,

It is reported that he said. “What has always stuck with me is not having any regrets. Don’t sit there thinking what you could have done or should have done. It was always about trying and keeping working hard.”


Snowboarder Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon.

Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon is a para snowboarder competing for France. She received her MS diagnosis in 2002, the same year as me but there the similarity ends. Before that diagnosis, she was a BMX rider the switched to snowboarding as she found it gave her a similar feeling.

At Sochi, she won a silver medal in para snowboarding and she is trying to go one better in PyeongChang.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

* * * * *

Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Paralympians with MS delighted to receive national honours


Two Paralympians with multiple sclerosis, who won gold medals in Rio in 2016, are delighted to have had their efforts recognized in their country’s New Year Honours list.

Kadeena Cox and Stephanie Millward have both been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, which is denoted by adding the letters MBE after their names.


Kadeena Cox.

Both took to Twitter to express their pleasure. Kadeena, who received her award for service to athletics, tweeted: “SPOTY (BBC TV Sports Personality of the Year) nomination now MBE, 2016 couldn’t have been a better year. Thanks for all the support and here’s to a great 2017.”


Stephanie Millward.

And Stephanie, whose award was for her services to swimming, tweeted: “Thank you everyone 4 following me &supporting me for an amazing GOLD & MBE in 2016! Good luck for 2017!! I hope all your dreams come true!”

Kadeena, aged 25, lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and was diagnosed with MS two years ago. As featured here on September 18, she won gold medals in both cycling and athletics in Rio, becoming the first Briton since 1988 to win a medal in two sports at the same Paralympics. This was recognized publicly when she was selected to be Great Britain’s flag bearer at the games’ closing ceremony.

Stephanie, is 35 and lives in Corsham, Wiltshire. She was diagnosed with MS at the age of 17 and embarked on an 18-year journey to the top of the Paralympic podium, winning two gold medals at Rio.


MS Society Ambassadors Stephanie Millward (left) and Kadeena Cox. (Pic:: MS Society).

Both women are Ambassadors of the UK’s MS Society, on behalf of which Ian Fannon said: “We’re absolutely thrilled for Kadeena and Stephanie to be recognized in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. They’ve both had a phenomenal year and these awards pay tribute to their dedication and achievements.

“We’re so proud to have Kadeena and Stephanie as MS Society Ambassadors, helping to raise awareness about this challenging and unpredictable condition.”

To that, I must add my congratulations for the great efforts and achievements of these Paralympians and MS warriors and for their subsequent well-deserved honours.


ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.


Two Paralympic golds, two world records, one silver medal and one bronze in four starts – and she has MS

A Paralympic athlete who now also competes as a cyclist and has multiple sclerosis, has gained a medal in each of the four events in which she took part.

Kadeena Cox, 25, won two golds, each with a world record time, one silver and one bronze. She was due to have taken part in a fifth event yesterday but an injury forced her to withdraw without starting.

Nevertheless, the medals she has won means she is the first Paralympic competitor to win medals in two different sports since 1988. Even more special is the fact that she won her first gold medal as a cyclist and her second as a track athlete.

Just a handful of years ago, Kadeena was a promising able-bodied sprinter competing in the athletics’ test event for London 2012 Olympics but in 2014 she suffered a stroke before being diagnosed with MS.

The young athlete set her mind on chasing Paralympic gold in Rio – which she has achieved in style.

She admitted: “Without my sport I would have crumbled. I was driven to succeed and it made me battle through the tough times.”

Kadeena Cox wins Paralympic gold in a world record time. (Pic: Sporting Life).

Kadeena Cox wins Paralympic gold in a world record time. (Pic: Sporting Life).

Despite the diagnosis, Kadeena was able to continue running, but with slower times, and in addition she took up track cycling as it aided her recovery.

“I got straight back into running, I just couldn’t deal with how slow I was going. But then taking on the cycling helped that a lot,” she said.

A member of the British team, Kadeena took athletic bronze in the T38 100m last Friday (October 9), her first gold in Rio was achieved the next day when she won the track cycling C4-5 time-trial. Her second gold was back on the athletic track on Wednesday in the T38 400m then, on Thursday, she won team silver in the T35-38 4x100m relay.

Yesterday, she was due to get back on the bike for the C4-5 road race but, disappointingly, had to pull out before the start with a hamstring problem.

Still as the Rio Paralympic Games comes to an end, Kadeena Cox will return home to Leeds as a double Paralympic champion in two different sports, and a double world record holder, also in two different sports. Added to that, she has both a silver and bronze medal to her name.

And, remember, she has done all this despite having multiple sclerosis which, as we who have that disease know full well, can cause fatigue and is likely to worsen over time.

Well done, Kadeena, all of us who live with MS are proud of you. In fact, all of us with any disability are proud of you.


Connected to, but separate from, this story is the sad news that an Iranian cyclist has died after a crash during a road race at the Paralympics in Rio. Bahman Golbarnezhad was treated at the scene and then suffered cardiac arrest as he was taken to hospital and later passed away.

The crash took place on a mountainous stretch as he was going down a steep hill during the men’s C4-C5 race for athletes with lower limb impairments or amputations. It was the women’s version of this race that Kadeena Cox was prevented from starting by a hamstring injury.


new strap


Athletes with MS taking on Paralympic Games in Rio

Following the recent Olympic Games, the 2016 Paralympics start today, also in Rio.

I respect and admire each and every one of the thousands of people with disabilities taking part and fighting for gold medals. To dedicate themselves with such passion and determination deserves the great success that only the very best will achieve.

Among those who are amassed for the Games  are a fair proportion of athletes with multiple sclerosis, far too many to name them all here but I will point out a few notable competitors.

200px-2016_Summer_Paralympics_logo.svgAustralian Carol Cooke who has lived with MS since 1998, is to represent her country at her second Paralympic Games.

She said: “I would never go back and change the fact that I was diagnosed with MS because it has made me who I am today and given me so many opportunities that I never would have had.”

British equestrian Anne Dunham is the oldest member of the ParalympicsGB team in Rio, aged 67, and she is determined to make her mark in these Games.

A keen horsewoman all her life, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after the birth of her daughter and has been a wheelchair user since the age of 30.

The second British sportswoman is ParalympicsGB’s Kadeena Cox will be lining up in no less than five events across two sports at her first Games in Rio.

A promising sprinter as an able-bodied competitor in the athletics’ test event for London 2012, Cox since suffered a stroke and was subsequently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

The young athlete set her mind on chasing Paralympic gold in Rio and now has one of the fullest schedules of anyone at the Games.

“It’s going to be a bit of a busy period,” said Cox, who is competing as both an athlete

“I’ve got the 100m then the 500m (cycling) time trial, then the 400m and the 4x100m relay and then I finish with the (cycling)road race so it’s going to be a busy week because they’re all pretty much back to back!”

Third Brit is swimmer Stephanie Millward was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 17.  In 2012, she was a member of the a 44-swimmer squad to compete. At the Games she won her first Paralympic medal, a silver, in the 100m backstroke S9. This was followed by four further medals. She won bronze in the 4 × 100m freestyle relay (34pts), swimming with Cashmore, Watkin and Susie Rodgers; a silver in 400m freestyle S9, finishing behind South African Natalie Du Toit.

Another silver came as she once again finished behind du Toit in the SM9 200 m individual medley in a new European record time of 4 minutes, 4.40 seconds. Her fifth and final medal came in the 100-metre medley relay (34 pts) swimming with Frederiksen, Cashmore and Watkin. The British quartet were in fourth place heading into the final leg but Watkin came through to finish in second place, three hundredths of a second behind the winning team from Australia.

She is hoping to reach the top step this time around.

The United States is sending almost 300 para athletes, including Jennifer Schuble, who won a gold and two silver medals in Beijing eight years ago, while taking a silver and a bronze in London in 2012.

At just 5-foot-3, Schuble is short for a cyclist, but she has explosive power. She displays no outward signs of a disability at first glance but says her biggest physical ailments are because of MS.

“MS is like an old house short-circuiting,” she said. “So when your core body temperature gets hotter as in when you’re exercising … you start misfiring. Your brain stops communicating. So, as an athlete that makes it harder.”

Another USA Paralympian is army veteran Lisa Coryell who is the first USA woman to compete in the W1 wheelchair category, Lia – as Coryell is known – made the national team after just 14 months of intense training. Coryell has lived with multiple sclerosis for nearly three decades but her disease worsened a few years ago and left her in a wheelchair.

Going back to the Antipodes, but this time New Zealand, 57-year-old Richard Dobson, who- has MS, is one of Chris Sharp’s three-man para-sailing crew alongside Andrew May.


new strap