Wheelchair racer has eyes on London

July 1, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Among the hopefuls is a 27-year-old from the University of Illinois, who is one of the top women racers in the world.

Anjali Forber-Pratt is training hard to qualify for the 2012 Paralympic Games that will take place in London two weeks after the Olympics.

"I'm hoping to compete in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters and the 800 meters," Anjali said. "In the 200 meters, my best time which is the World Record, is 29:16. I train six days a week and it's anywhere from about an hour and half to two hours in a given training session."

If selected, this will be her second Paralympics. She made her debut at the 2008 Beijing games.

"In Beijing, I competed in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters and the 4-by-1 relay and came home with two bronze medals," Anjali said.

Anjali was born a fighter. She became disabled two months after coming to America from Calcutta, India, where she lived in an orphanage.

She got sick with transverse mylitis when she was a baby and it left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Her adopted family lived outside of Boston, where she was inspired by the wheelchair racers in the Boston Marathon.

"I've never seen anything like it and in that moment, I realized that I could live my life with my disability," she said. "I could go to college, I could get involved in sports I could have a family, I could do all these different things, so I started bugging my parents to 'pretty please can I get one of those shiny racing chairs.' I got to try every sport under the sun and fell in love with the sports with speed, downhill skiing and wheelchair racing."

Anjali ended up at University of Illinois for both sports and education. She is a three-time graduate.

"My Bachelor's and Master's are in speech language pathology (and) my PhD is in human resource education, so I'm interested in adult learning and leadership development," she said.

Between earning her PhD and training for the Paralympic games, Anjali co-authored an educational kid's coloring book called "Color Learn and Play: All About Sports for Athletes with Physical Disabilities."

"I realized that I had this amazing platform and a wonderful education to be able to give back and to make a difference for young kids, so it started as a little side project of something that I was interested in," she said.

By the end of Sunday, Anjali will learn whether or not she made the team.

"I am currently the World Record holder in the 200 meters and I am hoping to bring home some gold from London," she said. To learn more about Anjali and also the 2012 Paralympic Team, visit Anjali's website, www.anjaliforberpratt.com, or www.london2012.com/paralympics/sports.

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