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Overcoming obstacles is normal for Aimee Mullins

By Greg Johnson

NCAA.org

Aimee Mullins was born without fibulae and had both legs amputated below the knees as an infant, but athletics still has been a foundation in her life.

Doctors initially thought Mullins would go through life maneuvering with the use of wheelchairs, but by the time she was 2-years-old, she learned to walk using prosthetic legs.

The rest of her life has been one triumph after another.

Mullins became the first adaptive athlete to compete against able-bodied NCAA athletes by running track and field for Georgetown (1995-98). She competed in the 1996 Paralympics and worked as a fashion model and actress.  Mullins shared her story with attendees at the NCAA Inclusion Forum on Tuesday.

The goal of the forum, which runs through Thursday at the NCAA national office, is to educate NCAA members on the core topics of disability, international student-athletes, LGBTQ, race and ethnicity, and women in sports issues.

Mullins is a prime example of how the determination of the human spirit can overcome the obstacles that arise in life.

After learning to walk with prosthetics, her interest in sports grew rapidly. Mullins, who graduated from Georgetown with a foreign service degree, she participated in swimming, biking, softball, soccer and skiing along with the able-bodied children.

Her athletic skills led to her becoming a member of the Hoyas track and field team, where she learned under the tutelage of Frank Gagliano. Mullins pioneered by competing with woven carbon-fiber prostheses that were modeled after the hind legs of a cheetah. The device is more common now.

“I was the first one to try running with those,” said Mullins, who is currently filming a movie based on the Norman Mailer book “Ancient Evenings” that is set for release next February. “I was the guinea pig. They were hard to get used to at first.”

But taking on challenging situations, especially when it comes to moving fast, is literally in her blood.

“A couple of years ago, I had my DNA sequencing done, and it is all anonymous,” said Mullins. “When the results came back, my musculature type said, ‘most likely to be a sprinter.’ ”

As people grew curious about her sprinting legs, Mullins began to gain more attention. She eventually landed on the cover of an international design magazine featuring the use of the new innovative prosthetics that allowed her to compete against able-bodied athletes.

British fashion designer Alexander McQueen saw the photos. He contacted Mullins, and a modeling career was born.

Mullins appeared in runway shows and has appeared inLife magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, W, Glamour, Elle, Jane, Rolling Stone, Esquire andPeople Magazine, which named her one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world in 1999.

In February 2011, L’Oreal Paris announced Mullins as the selection as its new Global Brand Ambassador.

In April 2011, the U.S. Olympic Committee selected her as one of two Chefs de Mission (former women’s basketball star Teresa Edwards was the other) for Team USA at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the highest USOC honor given to an American.

She has also done extensive work with the Women’s Sports Foundation and served as the foundation’s president from 2007 to 2009.

Additionally, Mullins held a vice president appointment for J.O.B., the nation’s oldest nonprofit employment service for persons with disabilities. Mullins also is a founding member of the leadership board to the SPIRE Institute, which helps people reach their full potential in athletics, academics and service.

While it may seem she doesn’t have much free time, Mullins is currently focused on her acting career that has included parts in plays, movies and television.

She recently went through a rigorous nine-week stint for a role she wanted badly. Unfortunately, she came in as the runner-up.

“It had an incredible director, an incredible writer and an incredible cast,” Mullins said. “I was so bummed to not get the part.”

The next day her agent gave her the script for another movie audition. This is where her athletics background helped her overcome the bitter disappointment she had just experienced.

“I kept my head in the game, learned the lines and I told myself to go in there and knock it out of the park,” Mullins said. “I know I’m getting closer to that breakout role.”