OUR IMPOSSIBLE
STORIES

Athletes who inspire us
to keep moving

These inspiring stories show us what is possible when we push the limits of human mobility.

Andrea Eskau - Para Cross-Country Skier

BORN

March 21, 1972

HOMETOWN

Apolda, Germany

SPORT

Para Athletics, Para Cross-Country Skiing

PARALYMPIC GAMES

2008, 2012, 2016
PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES
2010, 2014

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

Playing Para sports may have been born from necessity for Andrea, but before long the German powerhouse became one of the dominating forces on the Paralympic scene in summer and winter sports. She tried out wheelchair basketball first and eventually expanded her skills to Para cross-country skiing, Para biathlon, wheelchair racing and handcycle racing.

To date, Andrea has won 37 World Championship medals and is a 27-time World Champion in cycling, Para biathlon and Para cross-country skiing.

"The sacrifice and effort which goes into [winning a gold Paralympic medal] is truly incredible, and we’re so proud to be a small part of Andrea’s team."
– Toyota TMG engineer

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I’ve achieved many, many medals, but my biggest achievement as anathlete is to be fair and competitive. That’s what I believe is very, very important.

Inspired by Andrea’s unrelenting determination to challenge what’s possible, Toyota approached her in 2012 to initiate a collaboration. Focused on comfort and speed, we have worked closely with Andrea to create custom-made lightweight carbon fiber solutions for her bike and sledge that would give the star athlete an even greater competitive edge at the Paralympic Games.

Lauren Woolstencroft - Para Alpine Skier

BORN

November 24, 1981

HOMETOWN

Banff, AB, Canada

SPORT

Para Alpine Skiing

PARALYMPIC GAMES

2002, 2006, 2010

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

Lauren was born missing her left arm below the elbow as well as both legs below the knees, but that couldn’t stop her passion for sports. She began hitting the slopes as a weekend pastime with her ski-enthusiast father, and skiing quickly grew into an impassioned vocation for the budding athlete. Despite tremendous challenges and setbacks, Lauren began racing with the Alberta Para-Alpine Ski Team when she was 14 years old.

“When I first started competing, I definitely thought being on the top step of that podium seemed impossible. But through years of training and hard work—and a great team behind me—I was able to translate that into ten medals at the Paralympic Games.”

If I could describe my journey in the Paralympic Games in one word, I would say determination.

Lauren continued defying what seemed impossible one downhill slope at a time. During her tenure with the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team, Lauren became one of the most decorated Para alpine skiers in the world, winning ten medals—eight gold, one silver and one bronze—at the Salt Lake City 2002 Paralympic Winter Games for Team Canada.

When announcing her departure from competitive skiing in 2010, Lauren stated that she wanted to be remembered as an athlete who faced challenges and overcame them to achieve success.

Han Min-Su - Para Ice Hockey Player

BORN

June 3, 1970

HOMETOWN

Seoul, South Korea

SPORT

Para Ice Hockey

PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

2010, 2014

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

Twenty-three years old and living with rheumatoid arthritis in both legs, Han decided to climb a mountain that was 1,708 meters high. Once he reached the summit 17 hours later, he felt the rush of courage he would need to turn life’s barriers into possibilities.

When Han’s left leg was amputated seven years later after he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, Han reflected on that triumphant moment on the mountain, and he decided to relentlessly pursue his lifelong dream to become a world-class athlete.

It’s challenging… setting a goal, preparing to reach the goal, and all the sweat that goes with it. That’s when I feel alive and that’s when I’m glad that I play hockey.

Han began competing in Para powerlifting, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby—all at the national level in the Republic of Korea—but it was on the ice that Han settled into his domain. A few years later, Han was shining as the Vancouver 2012 Paralympic Winter Games superstar. Next, Han will create a new summit for his hockey legacy when he hits the home ice at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in South Korea.

Michael Milton - Para Alpine Skier

BORN

March 21, 1973

HOMETOWN

Canberra, Australia

SPORT

Para Alpine Skiing and Cycling

PARALYMPIC GAMES

2008
PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES
1988, 1992, 1994, 2002, 2006

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

As soon as Michael learned how to walk, he took off running. His ski-enthusiast family made regular trips to the mountains near Canberra where he became addicted to the thrill of bombing down powdery slopes.

When Michael was nine years old, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and his leg was amputated above the knee. After a few challenging years recovering and relearning to walk with one leg, 11-year-old Michael was ready to re-explore the bounds of his physical abilities through sports.

For me, moving is about exploring, experiencing the world to the fullest extent that I can.

A life of dedication and persistent training turned Michael into the most successful Australian Paralympic athlete at the Paralympic Winter Games. Michael also competes in Para athletics, mountain biking and the Para triathlon. “I don’t like to see things as impossible. For me, life is about testing my limits and seeing what is possible.”

Inspired by Michael’s story, Toyota Australia began working with the Paralympian in 2002, and the multitalented athlete became an official Toyota brand ambassador in 2007. Toyota is excited to stay by Michael’s side and experience where his next athletic dreams take him.

Tatyana McFadden - Para Athlete

BORN

April 21, 1989

HOMETOWN

Clarksville, Maryland, USA

SPORT

Para Athletics and Para Cross-Country Skiing

PARALYMPIC GAMES

2004, 2008, 2012, 2016
PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES
2014

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

Tatyana was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, with spina bifida, a disorder that paralyzed her from the waist down. She spent the first years of her life in an orphanage, scooting across the ground on her hands.

After arriving in the U.S. with her adoptive family at age six, Tatyana began experimenting with different sports to strengthen her muscles after spinal surgery. By the time she was in 8th grade, Tatyana was determined to one day become a Paralympic champion.

But despite her greatest efforts, Tatyana still had difficulty getting permission to compete against her peers in high school. In response, the young athlete became an activist and helped spearhead a law that requires schools to give students with impairments equal opportunity to compete in interscholastic athletics.

The word impossible... it doesn’t really mean anything to me because I’ve always found ways to make things possible.

Since 2004, Tatyana has been a fixture at the Paralympic Games in both short- and long-distance races, winning seven gold, six silver and three bronze medals for Team USA. She also won the Boston, Chicago, London and New York Marathons, making her the first person—able-bodied or otherwise—to win the four major marathons in the same year.

In 2014, Tatyana returned to her birth country to compete in sprint sitting Para cross-country skiing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Russia. In this place of her past, amidst the excitement of her Paralympic dreams fulfilled, Tatyana was reminded of just how far she had come when she proudly accepted the silver medal.

Tyrone Pillay - Para Athlete

BORN

May 1, 1980

HOMETOWN

Durban, South Africa

SPORT

Para Athletics

PARALYMPIC GAMES

2016

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

Tyrone always dreamed of becoming a great athlete. He dreamt of one day playing cricket for South Africa and believed that this is what he was meant to do. He played for over 14 years before he realized that, because of his impairment, he was never going to realize his dream of playing cricket for South Africa. And, as he grew older and adapted to his corrective prosthetic left foot, Tyrone became increasingly convinced that Olympic grandeur was also not within his reach. Still, in each free moment after work at Toyota S.A. and on weekends, he enjoyed playing sports with friends and colleagues.

Later, while watching the shot put at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games on TV, Tyrone's dreams of athletic glory were suddenly reawakened; he witnessed athletes who were strong and tall with a build not dissimilar to his own competing on the world stage. This was the moment Tyrone knew that he belonged on that Paralympic field and it was time to embrace that.

Just eight years after watching the Beijing Paralympics, Tyrone stepped onto the field in Rio to compete in the shot put for Team South Africa. At his first-ever Paralympic Games, Tyrone proudly accepted the bronze medal for his country.

My impossibility would be to leave a legacy for the next generation of athletes; to try and create a world where nobody sees a divide between able-bodied and Paralympic athletes.

Brad Snyder - Para Swimmer

BORN

February 29, 1984

HOMETOWN

Reno, Nevada, USA

SPORT

Para Swimming

PARALYMPIC GAMES

2012, 2016

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

The water is where Brad Snyder feels most free. He learned to swim in Florida when he was still a toddler and began competing when he was 11 years old. Later, Brad became the captain of his swim team at the United States Naval Academy.

“I think living life with a visual impairment, living life blind, living life dark is what seemed impossible to us in the weeks after I sustained the injury… what I found in the Paralympics is that even though I can’t see, there’s still a whole world of things I’m still capable of.”

When an injured Brad returned home from Afghanistan, he had to learn to find his way through the dark. His family stayed by his side, helping the once-resilient soldier complete simple tasks such as eating, dressing and finding the bathroom.

I want for [my story] to go out into the atmosphere and inspire the next generation of athletes to dream about being on that Paralympic podium.

Just months into recovery, Brad decided to return to the waters that he found so familiar. One year to the day after his losing his eyesight while on duty, he proudly stood on the Paralympic podium to take home the gold for Team USA. Among swimmers with complete visual impairment, Brad is the current world-record holder for the 100-meter freestyle.

Today, Brad has a new ambition: to adopt a second sport and compete in the Paratriathlon in Tokyo 2020.

Lucy Ogechukwu-Ejike - Para Powerlifter

 Lucy Ogechukwu Ejike takes a break between reps during a workout.
BORN

October 16, 1977

HOMETOWN

Enugu, Nigeria

SPORT

Para Powerlifting

PARALYMPIC GAMES

2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016

ACHIEVING IMPOSSIBLE

When Lucy moved from her hometown of Enugu to a group home for people with impairments, she discovered a world of opportunities available to her, including Para sports. She took particular interest in Para powerlifting—a competitive activity she could participate in from her wheelchair.

Shortly before the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, Lucy began a rigorous powerlifting training regime. That year—in her first competition—she took home the silver medal for Team Nigeria. Just a few years later, competing for the same weight class at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, Lucy broke the Paralympic Para powerlifting world record twice on her way to winning the gold medal.

In 2016, Lucy made headlines once again at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games when she broke three world records and took home her third Paralympic gold medal.

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The advice I have for [young girls who aspire to powerlift] is that they should not be afraid. They can do it. Let them join us. With determination, they can get to their destination.

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