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Rockwall to honor gold medal-winning Paralympian

By Dawn Redig, NeighborsGo.com & J.J. Smith. After bringing home the gold in the 2010 Winter Paralympics, Taylor Lipsett of Rockwall will be the guest of honor at the June 21 City Council meeting, when Mayor Bill Cecil will declare it “Taylor Lipsett Day” in Rockwall.

Lipsett, who moved to Rockwall from Mesquite last November, was a leading scorer for the United States sled-hockey team that dominated at the Vancouver games, with victories over the Czech Republic, South Korea, Norway – upsetting the Japanese 2-0 in the championship match.

The 23-year-old Paralympian battles Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as “brittle bone disease.”

“I’ve broken bones about 110 times during my lifetime. About 75 bones in my legs – 55 in my left and 20 in my right,” he said. “I’ve broken ribs, shoulders and arms. I was in a cast from the chest down for six months out of every year from when I was about three until I was 10.”

Growing up, Lipsett played street hockey with his brother Aaron and friends from Kimbrough Middle School and Poteet High School.

“I played in my wheelchair, as well as sitting on a skateboard,” he said.

His sled-hockey career began after a chance meeting at a Mesquite Wal-Mart with the mother-in-law of a fellow Paralympian.

“It was the first time she had ever been in that grocery store, as well as the last time. She doesn’t live anywhere close to it, either, but on that day, it’s like it was meant to be,” Lipsett said.

In 2004, Lipsett helped Team USA win silver in the Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships in Sweden. He won a bronze medal at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Italy. In 2009, his U.S. team won the world championship in the Czech Republic, when they were named “Paralympic Team of the Year.”

Earlier this year, he won gold medals at the Japan Para Ice Sledge Hockey Championship and the World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Canada.

Following his move to Rockwall with his wife Kathleen, Lipsett is focused on his career with Bank of America, where he specializes in wealth management for athletes. As a member of Team for Tomorrow – a humanitarian relief fund through which athletes give back to local communities – Lipsett is also helping Habitat for Humanity with a new project in downtown Rockwall.

He will begin training again in 2012, to prepare for the 2014 Olympics in Russia.

PARALYMPICS

Paralympic games are for athletes with visual impairments and physical disabilities, such as missing limbs and lower body disabilities which require the use of wheelchairs.

“Many people associate the Paralympics with the Special Olympics. While both events are for those with disabilities, the Special Olympics involve athletes with cognitive disabilities, whereas the Paralympics display the athleticism of those with physical disabilities,” Lipsett explained. “The “Para” does not stand for “paralyzed,” but instead signifies the Paralympics being on ‘parallel’ with the Olympic games as far as venues, staffing and athleticism.”

The Paralympic games are played during the two weeks after the Winter Olympics. They include Alpine and cross-country skiing, wheelchair curling, biathalon and sled-hockey.

Sled-hockey athletes use a sled and two sticks to propel themselves and to hit the puck.

“It was a huge honor to represent the United States,” Lipsett said. “To be a part of it and put on a U.S. jersey is the utmost honor I can achieve.”

He and his teammates were also honored by a special invitation to meet President Barack Obama and the First Lady at the White House in May.

“No matter what your political views might be, being in the company and shaking hands with one of the most powerful people on the earth is quite an experience,” Lipsett said.

Obama told the Paralympians they were courageous, not only for winning the gold, but also for overcoming the daily obstacles that people with disabilities face, Lipsett said.

This story will also be published in the June 18 edition of the Rockwall/Rowlett/Heath Neighbors Go newspaper.

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