Paralympic spirit

July 10, 2012

By Nir Elias

When the idea to photograph Israeli athletes for the London 2012 Paralympic games came to mind, the second athlete I met was Pascale Berkovitch.

Pascale, 44, lost her legs in a train accident in the suburbs of Paris when she was 17 years old. She now lives with her partner and two daughters in Tel Aviv and is part of the Israeli Paralympic staff for the 2012 games in the field of Hand Biking.

During my first meeting with Pascale, I was struck by the expression ‘sport spirit’. The more time I spent with her while training in the park, at home with her partner or while wandering around her neighborhood with her little girl, the more I felt this was an understatement.

Pascale, like many other Paralympians, has a very optimistic character. I could feel that in her case, this character expands to become something outstanding. Pascale gives the impression that she has no self pity over her physical condition and the way she lives with her disability is totally ordinary.

I witnessed Pascale going up three stairs at the playground with her child. She jumped off her wheelchair, pulled her body over the stairs and then with a powerful lift carried the wheelchair and jumped back on it in an impressive acrobatic move. She commented “I am like a little monkey jumping, going up and down and moving myself from place to place – I’m really a little monkey.”

The physical disability of Pascale is very visible but getting a little closer to her you can feel that the disability is physical only. On the mental level you find a strong, vivid and very energetic person.

She is also very aware of her powerful spirit and makes a living as a motivational speaker using her personal story as the basis for her presentations.

“This is how I am. Everyone has disability, mine is physical, but this is where it ends,” Pascale said. When I try to honestly think about it, I find the statement to be very true.

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