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Maureen McKinnon-Tucker - Looking back, looking forward
(July 8, 2009) Hosted by ESPN, the 2009 ESPY Award show on July 19th will commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances.
2008 Paralympic sailing gold medalist Maureen McKinnon-Tucker is one of the four nominees in the "Female Athlete with a Disability" category.
Competing in the SKUD 18 class, Maureen had sailed with Nick Scandone, who died shortly after the Games from his battle with ALS. Here is an update from Maureen:
What is your most vivid memory from the 2008 Paralympic Games?
Hoisting our stars and stripes spinnaker for the first time was a moment I will never forget. I looked over at Nick and over to our coach and it was moment frozen in time. It was also a moment when it sunk in pretty heavy that we were there, really there, on behalf of our country and there were so many people who helped get us there.
Literally hundreds of people contributed in hundreds of different ways. A truck was donated, friends drove the boat cross country, fellow sailors mowed our lawn while we were in treatments with chemo, my folks gave us countless hours of babysitting, donors from around the country supported our travel costs, and so many other ways large and small.
Was there ever a question that Nick would not either live long enough, or have sufficient strength, to compete in the Paralympic Games?
When we were over a year out to "game time", sure, we all worried and Nick was also. As we were approaching with just a few months to go, however, I had absolutely no doubts. Nick was living to make it to China and he was closely conserving his energy - sleeping, drinking and eating often when his body made it difficult to do so.
As for losing strength, our Coach, Mike Pinkney was closely monitoring Nick's needs and was making adjustments to the steering at every practice. The SKUD is an infinitely adaptable boat, and as Nick changed, so did the boat.
To see Nick's battle to make it to the Games last September, but then die nearly four months later on Jan 2, 2009... what have you taken away from that?
Sailing with Nick changed my approach to sailing greatly and for that I am very grateful to him. I hope to carry his lessons forward to my next campaign for London 2012 and onto the disabled sailors I teach through my disabled sailing clinics and at Piers Park where I work.
Seeing Nick fight to live out his dream successfully has convinced me that humans can indeed really LIVE for something.
You had your share of challenges too. How is your son?
Our son is doing very well, his last MRI came out cancer-clean and we expect that trend to continue. He has regained his speech and ability to walk independently. He is still a very charming, happy kid who still receives some therapy weekly.
My husband, family and friends made the 21 day (brain cancer) chemo treatments bearable while I worked fulltime and they made possible the many trips to California to keep training with Nick.
Were you aware of your ESPY nomination prior to the announcement?
No I really had no idea and I still don't know how or who nominated me.
For people who watch the show, and see your nomination, what would you like them to know about you and your position in the "Female Athlete with a Disability" category?
I'd like folks to know our against all odds story. I hope they can know the Gold didn't happen overnight - it was the culmination of 8 years of trying. I got a chance to make a lot of "firsts" for disabled women
I hope that more women may be inspired to stay in the sport of sailing. It upsets me that so many women drop out of our sport, while men seem to continue sailing as thier lives move forward. If a gal like me can be married, have kids, a job and a sail campaign...surely other able-bodied women can call the babysitter and go race around the buoys one night a week with friends...don't you think??
What have you been up to since the Games, and do you have your sight on the 2012 Games?
Yes, I certainly do have my sights on 2012! London may seem so far way, but the Trials will be here in just 2 years, so I will be making a decision soon. I really love sailing the SKUD and the fact that this sportboat class has so strongly promoted more women in the sport. The class has changed the makeup of who is on the docks and I have been really proud to be part of this emerging class.
ESPY Award winners are determined by fan voting. There is no easier way to support the sport of sailing than to vote for Maureen. The deadline for voting is July 12, 2009 at 11:59 PM EDT. Click here for details on how to vote.
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