Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, Paralympian Yachtswoman. She was the first woman to represent the U.S. in sailing ever in the Paralympic Games, and also the first woman to win a gold medal in Paralympic Sailing (both in Beijing).
“It was just a beautiful sunny day in August and I wasn’t doing anything risk or strange. It was in the middle of the morning and I tripped on a road that happened to be tied between a bollard and a boat stanchion and it happened to be right next to an ocean seawall. And I went flying over the seawall, and down 13 feet, and landed in a sitting position and broke my back… I had gone to nursing school and I knew exactly what had happened to me. I was going to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life.”
“Getting back into sailing and finding success in sailing gave me a whole new purpose in life.”
“Competition in the paralympics was quite an accidental event for me. I had been a casual sailor prior to my disability which happened in 1995. I didn’t take the sport very seriously until I couldn’t do it anymore. And that was when I realized I loved sailing.”
“It wasn’t until I met a mentor- someone who is just like me who was sailing. I accidentally met him on a Sunday afternoon on the porch of the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead and I said to him, ‘What are you doing here?’ And he looked at me kind of incredulously and said, ‘Well, I’m here with my team.’ And I said, 'Well, what kind of team do you have?’ And he’s in a chair and I’m in a chair and we’re looking eye to eye with one another. And he said, ‘I have a Paralympic team.’ I literally, and embarrassingly said. “What are the Paralympics? I don’t know.’ He explained it to me and at that moment inspired me to get out there and sail again. He said one thing to me that I’ll never forget in my whole life, and that was: ‘Once a sailor, always a sailor. What’s your excuse? Get on a boat.’"
Jothy Rosenberg and Boston 2024 and edited for brevity, Photograph via US Sailing