CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Anjali Forber-Pratt, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, won the gold medal in the 200-meter race Tuesday, the fourth day of the 2011 International Paralympic Committee World Athletics Championships, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Anjali Forber-Pratt is working on a doctorate in education policy, organization and leadership in the College of Education, where she is a teaching assistant and coordinator of online programs. | Photo courtesy College of Education
Forber-Pratt set a new world record in the event with a time of 29.83 seconds, finishing a chair length ahead of the second- and third-place competitors, both on the Chinese team. Her victory, as well as the silver medal that she won in the 100-meter race, qualifies her to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games, to be held in London.
Forber-Pratt holds the American record in the 200-meter dash and is ranked among the top three fastest female wheelchair athletes in the world for the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter events. In the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, Forber-Pratt won bronze medals in the 100-meter and 400-meter events.
Forber-Pratt graduated from the U. of I. with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech and hearing science and is working on a doctorate in education policy, organization and leadership in the College of Education, where she is a teaching assistant and coordinator of online programs.
Born in Calcutta, India, Forber-Pratt spent 2 1/2 months in an orphanage before being adopted by Rosalind Forber and Larry Pratt, of Natick, Mass.
Shortly after her arrival in the U.S., Forber-Pratt, then 4 months old, contracted transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder that affects the spinal cord and left her paralyzed from the waist down.
On her blog, Forber-Pratt, now 26, describes herself as a “born fighter,” and that she considers her disability a “positive life altering event” that compelled her to develop “an innate drive and determination that she has utilized in every facet of her life,” prompting her to embrace and triumph over challenges that others might find daunting.
By age 6, Forber-Pratt had gotten her first racing wheelchair, and she went on to compete in track, downhill skiing and hockey. In 1999, she won a gold medal in the giant slalom event in the junior division at the Chevy Truck Disabled World Cup, in Breckenridge, Colo.
In addition to her studies and training six days a week for competition, Forber-Pratt speaks at events around the country and volunteers with local organizations for children with disabilities, hoping to inspire other young athletes who have disabilities and educate all children about tolerance and acceptance. Forber-Pratt is featured in a coloring and activity book titled “All About Sports for Athletes With Disabilities,” part of a series that teaches young people about adapted sports such as wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing, downhill skiing and sled hockey.